July 7, 2009

Israeli Archeologists Unearth Herod’s Quarry

On Monday the Israel Antiquity Authority said that they believed archeologists may have unearthed a stone quarry used by King Herod"”known throughout most of the western world as the Roman king of the Holy Land during Christ's birth"”to build a number of famous structures, including the Jewish Temple and the Western Wall.

The quarry appears to be just one portion of a large system of quarries located inside the ancient city.

Archeologists have indicated that the size of the stones extracted have offered clues as to what kind of construction they were used for.  Some of the largest stones chiseled out of the 1,000-square-foot quarry have dimensions of roughly 9 foot by 6 foot by 6 foot"”almost identical to the measurements of the massive blocks used to construct the Temple and the Western Wall.

According to Ofer Sion, director of the excavation project, "[t]he dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry that was revealed are suitable for the Temple walls."

Archeologists were given only a brief window of opportunity to dig around in the large space of earth as the construction of a new apartment complex at the site is scheduled to begin soon.  Nevertheless, the two-week project has proven richly rewarding, as scientists continue to turn up ancient pottery relics, coins, and tools of the quarrying trade, all dating back to the first century B.C.

Still, the quarry remains the most exciting find of the project.

"Finding a large quarry related to the largest building project ever undertaken in Jerusalem [...] that's more than just another discovery.  It's an additional block that slowly reveals the picture of construction in ancient Jerusalem," said archaeologist Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, who observed but did not participate in the dig.

The Israel Antiquities Authority says that the excavation will likely be finished in the coming weeks.  Due to the tremendous amount of historical artifacts in the region, all builders are required by law to carry out excavation projects before construction of a new building.

Herod was the Roman-appointed tetrarch of Israel from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. and has bequeathed to history something of an ambivalent legacy.  While known for his massive civic building projects"”the greatest of which was the Second Jewish Temple, or Herod's Temple"”he was also infamous for his brutality, arbitrarily ordering the deaths of thousands Jews as well as members of his own family.  He is often confused with his son, Herod Antipas, who, according to the Bible and Roman records was instrumental in the deaths of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.


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