Magen Broshi

[Magen Broshi is curator of the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. He is a veteran of many local excavations, including the dig of the Phoenician town at Tel Megadim (1967 to 1969), of which he was director. Mr. Broshi is also Assistant Editor of Qadmoniot, a quarterly for the antiquities of Israel and Bible Lands (published in Hebrew).]

In the Autumn 1972 issue of BIBLE AND SPADE we included a brief report on the excavations in the Armenian Garden and outside the Zion Gate. We are pleased to present this more detailed illustrated follow-up report from Magen Broshi, director of the excavations. — Ed.

Archaeologists have been excavating in Jerusalem for well over a century, but it is only in the last five years that large scale digs have taken place inside the walls. This unprecedented activity is accounted for by the extensive building operations in the area — no building is erected in the Old City now until the site has been properly excavated.

The excavations under review, which began in 1971, are proceeding in the Armenian Garden and on Mount Zion in the course of clearing ground for the construction of an Armenian seminary and church. Conducted on behalf of the Armenian Patriarchate and the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums, and sponsored by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation through the Jerusalem Fund, they have yielded rich and varied finds dating from the Israelite period (7th century BCE), through the period of the Second Commonwealth and up to the Middle Ages. They are directed by the author in

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collaboration with Mr. D. Bahat (the Armenian Garden), Mrs. Yael Israeli and Mr. E. Netzer (Mount Zion).

The House of Caiaphas on Mount Zion

By Christian tradition (first mentioned by the Bordeaux Pilgrims, ca. 333 CE), the house of the High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, where Jesus was taken the night before he was handed over to the Romans (Matthew 26) stood at this spot on Mount Zion. There are good reasons for regarding the tradition as historically sound, in contradistinction to many other apocryphal attributions of holy sites; this is the summit of the “Upper City,” bordering on the palace, and the tradition is old, already recorded in the earliest of pilgrim writings.

Our excavations have bared remains from the Israelite period (Iron Age) to the Middle Ages, the best preserved stratum being the Herodian, which dates from approximately the last century before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

The Israelite Period is represented in our dig by at least one building, and perhaps more, and many small finds — complete pottery vessels, figurines etc. We are confronted here by an important problem — was this hill included in the boundaries of the Old Testament Jerusalem? The recent discovery of the wide city wall of the 7th century (by Professor N. Avigad, in the Jewish Quarter, one-fourth mile west of our dig) makes it probable, but it is also quite possible that an unwalled suburb existed here. In any case, it is of great interest what we have learned here and in the Jewish Quarter, that in the last century before the fall of the First (Solomon’s) Temple, in the period between the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, Jerusalem mushroomed in size to an extent about a dozen times bigger than the City of David. The circumstances that brought about this amazing growth can not be dealt with here, but this is a good example of how archaeology causes historians to reappraise situations hardly dealt with in the written sources.

Several interesting but unstratified finds from the Persian Period (4th century BCE) discovered here are of a different nature, and are not to be taken as proof that the city of that period stretched to our site or its neighborhood. It seems that the tiny Jerusalem of that time limited itself to the Eastern ridge. Among the finds from this period a mention should be made of the minuscule silver coin inscribed “Yehud” (Judaea), a rare coin of which only two specimens have

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been discovered in an excavation, both in Jerusalem — in ours and in the “French Hill.”

After a long period of desertion our site was resettled in the Herodian Period (1st century BCE), at the end of the Hasmonean

General area of the Mt. Zion excavation in the court of the Armenian Saint Saviour Convent. In the foreground two vaulted (arched) roofs of Herodian buildings can be seen. In the background is the Dormition Abby.

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Period. Relatively well preserved houses, some with their vaulted roofs intact, courts, a lane and a vast system of water installations give us some idea of a rich residential quarter.

The small finds are numerous — the usual: pottery, coins, etc. and some rare, like a sword found in its wooden sheath, a most unusual object to find in the humid soil of Jerusalem. This sword is seemingly from the last battle of the “Upper City,” and thus we can fix the exact date in which the sword fell to the cistern in which it was found: 70 CE.

A closeup of a portion of the Mt. Zion dig. Note the cistern and the drainage pipe, part of an elaborate water system in this upper-class district of ancient Jerusalem.

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A reconstructed mural from one of the rich homes in the neighborhood where Caiaphas is thought to have lived.

Our most interesting finds are undoubtedly the colored murals. Representative of the Illusionistic style — trees, birds, garlands, and so on, they are the first of their kind to be found in this country. Painted plaster from the Herodian Period, consisting of geometric patterns or marble imitations, has been found in several other excavations of public buildings from Masada to Caesarea. There, the prohibition on graven images was zealously kept. It is interesting to note that, of the hundreds of Jewish ossuaries, not one is decorated with an image of a living creature. Our finds suggest, then, that private dwellings may have differed in their style from public edifices, and, although there are, so far, no parallels to be found in the Holy Land, we can point to many similar murals in Italy and the Western provinces.

In addition to the Murals, which were found in thousands of small fragments and have been reconstructed with patient labor into sizable slabs, there were many small finds such as pottery (almost the complete repertory of this period), glass and coins.

The excavations are still underway, and it is our hope that, when they are finished, we shall be able to describe in detail part of the affluent residential quarter that graced this area in the hundred years before the Second Temple fell.

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Herod’s Palace in the Armenian Garden

Two royal palaces were built in the area south of the Citadel (the so-called “Tower of David”): Herod’s and that of the Crusader kings of Jerusalem.

The location and description of Herod’s palace are given us by the historian Flavius Josephus: “…and a little way south of these towers and sheltered by them was the King’s palace, which no tongue could describe. Its magnificence and equipment were unsurpassable, surrounded as it was on every side by a wall 53 feet high with ornamented towers evenly spaced along it, and containing huge banqueting halls and guestrooms with 100 beds” (The Jewish War, 5.4.4).

Herod’s palace was built and first occupied by Herod the Great (the Herod in Matthew 2). In the first century CE, after Archelaus, Herod’s son and successor (Matthew 2:22), had been deposed by Augustus, the palace was made the Jerusalem residence of the Roman governors and is to be identified with the praetorium mentioned in the New Testament as the judicial seat of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:27 and the parallel passages).

In building his palace, Herod had recourse to the method which he had employed in the Temple Area — the construction of a gigantic platform. Its length was 380 yards, its width at least 65 yards and it was made of huge retaining walls as much as six and one-half feet wide, filled in with earth. Five walls, preserved to a height of 14 feet, which probably also served as foundations for the palace, and considerable portions of the platform, were unearthed in the dig. Of the superstructure, however, nothing was found either in our excavation or in two adjacent ones — the northern end of the platform (the excavation of the Citadel, dug by Ruth Amiran and Avraham Eitan) and the southern end (Area L of Kathleen Kenyon’s excavations, directed by A. D. Tushingham).

The absence of the superstructure is due in the main to the Crusaders, who systematically erased all the remains of earlier periods. Choosing the same site for their palace some twelve centuries later, it is likely that they did not know of their predecessors, but made their choice because of the strategic qualities of the area.

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There is a place where Jesus lived,

Where He walked and talked with men,

And as we visit that ancient land

We relive those scenes again.

What a thrill to walk where He walked,

To reach down and touch a stone,

Envision Him by the seaside,

Or on mountain top alone.

But the stones we touch are lifeless,

As they lie in the cold sod,

Christ our Lord is the Cornerstone,

Elect, the Chosen of God.

Be a living stone in His church,

The cry goes out to men,

Put your faith in the Son of God

For Ye must be born again.

Ann Moore

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