The Street below the Western Wall: Coins and Conclusions

Tuvia Sagiv

Prof. Roni Reich excavated below Robinson's Arch near the Western Wall together with archeologist Yaakov Bilig. The results of the dig were published in Kadmoniot 117 5759 (1999), under the heading "Excavations next to the Temple Mount and Robinson's Arch. 1994 1996."

In this paper the archeologists noted that a "sealed" site test had been conducted underneath the stone paving and they had discovered coins from the later periods of the Herodian Era, and one coin from the time of the Great Jewish Revolt against Romans.

The excavators came to the conclusion that the street was paved after Herod's time, at least forty years after his death. However, the conclusions were inconsistent.

The discovery of a coin from the year 68 A.C. under the stone paving proves that the street was paved after the Great Jewish Revolt, and the walls were destroyed at a later period.

As such, the pile of fallen stones we found  was not caused by Titus' soldiers.

If so, the wall was intact after the destruction of the Temple. However, Josephus describes the destruction of the wall by the Roman soldiers (Wars, 7, 1, 1). Is it possible that the compound was misidentified?

The perimeter wall of the compound does not date to the Second Temple, but was built and destroyed at a later period.

Finding coins from the Second Temple period up to the fourth year of the Great Revolt in a layer of dirt that separates the floor from the pile of stones cannot provide any evidence of the years during which the street was in use.

It is possible that the stratigraphy here is reversed whereby dirt from the upper city, including coins from the Second Temple era, settled on flooring placed there in a later period.

The pile of coins found on the floor does not contribute to the dating either. It is possible that the coins were bunched together in a sash that ended up there after falling down from the upper city. Over the years the sash disintegrated and the bunch of coins from the Second Temple settled on the floor from a later period.

The discovery of a coin from the period of the Great Jewish Revolt  under the paving stone provides further evidence for the claim raised in the past that the compound we found is not the Temple Mount compound and was, in fact, built in a later period.

The axioms and paradigms of understanding the compound need to be re-examined.

The Temple Mount compound was completed by Agrippa the Second and 18,000 laborers were left workless (see Jewish Antiquities, 20, I, G).

 The compound we see today was destroyed before it was completed. This can be perceived in the northern section of the Western Wall, and also in the fallen stones in the southern section of the Western Wall where there are stones with only markings of the stonework on the fringes, on which the stonework had not actually been carried out.

The technology of the compound construction is not characteristic of the Herodian Era. (see Vitruvius, About Architecture, tenth book,. a contemporary architect of Herod Era). Projects that are known to be the work of Herod, such as Jericho, Herodion, Masada, Caesarea and Samaria, do not have a construction of this type, and do not use such large and heavy stones. (The Cave of Machpela is not included in the list of Herod's works).

The Haram Al Shariff compound in Jerusalem is similar in character to the Baalbek compound in Jerusalem, and to the Jupiter Temple in Damascus. The compound is part of a unique architectural phenomenon in the eastern part of the Roman Empire during the first centuries of the Common Era, and does not pertain to the Herodian Era. (See a paper written by Arthur Segal, Kadmoniot 117 p. 16).

The solitary coin discovered underneath the street paving near the Western Wall can act as an important factor in re-examining the Haram Al Shariff compound, understanding its designation and dating its construction.

In order to ascertain that the coin discovery was not coincidental additional localized excavations should be initiated under the paving stone in the "sealed" areas, in hope of discovering more findings that will advance the archeological research.

Tuvia Sagiv

Sagiv Shekarka Architects

37 Louis Marshall St., Tel Aviv 62000

Tel: 03-6024658 Fax: 03-6024738


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