An archaeological team led by Dr. Eilat Mazar has unearthed an ancient wall in Jerusalem that dates back to the third king of Israel, King Solomon, the son of King David, and this team believes this discovery gives proof to the Biblical account of the presence of the Jewish people in Jerusalem 3000 years ago.
Dr. Mazar cited the book of I Kings in the Bible as she explained the archaeological significance of this wall which surrounded the central city of the monarchy, the House of King Solomon and the first Temple of the Jewish people.
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“The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence,” Mazar said. “Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering, and the city wall is at the eastern end of the Ophel area in a high, strategic location atop the western slope of the Kidron Valley.
“A comparison of this latest finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate, with a great degree of assurance, that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century BCE,” she continued.
“This is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon’s building in Jerusalem,” she added.
“The Bible tells us that Solomon built – with the assistance of the Phoenicians, who were outstanding builders – the Temple and his new palace and surrounded them with a city, most probably connected to the more ancient wall of the City of David.”
Mazar specifically cited the third chapter of Kings I, which includes the words “until he [Solomon] had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.”
The six-meter-high gatehouse of the uncovered city wall complex is built in a style typical of those from the period of the First Temple, like Megiddo, Beersheba and Ashdod. It has a symmetrical plan of four identical small rooms, two on each side of the main passageway.
A large, adjacent tower also stood at the site, covering an area of 24 by 18 meters, where it served as a watchtower to protect entry to the city. Today the tower is located under the nearby road and still needs to be excavated.
Pottery shards discovered within the fill of the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also testify to the 10th-century-BCE dating of the complex. On the floor, excavators found remnants of large storage jars that survived destruction by fire and that were found in rooms that apparently served as storage areas on the ground floor of the building. One of the jars shows a partial inscription in ancient Hebrew indicating it belonged to a high-level government official.
“The jars that were found are the largest ever found in Jerusalem,” said Mazar, adding that “the inscription found on one of them shows that it belonged to a government official, apparently the person responsible for overseeing the provision of baked goods to the royal court.”
In addition to the pottery shards, cult figurines were also found in the area, as were seal impressions on jar handles with the word “to the king,” testifying to their usage within the monarchy. Also found were seal impressions (bullae) with Hebrew names, indicating the royal nature of the structure.
Nonetheless, other archeologists posit that the biblical narrative reflecting the existence of a powerful monarchy in Jerusalem is largely mythical and that there was no strong government to speak of in that era.
Aren Maeir, an archeology professor at Bar Ilan University, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims. There are remains from the 10th century in Jerusalem, he said, but proof of a strong, centralized kingdom at that time remains “tenuous.”
While some see the biblical account of the kingdoms of David and Solomon as accurate and others reject it entirely, Maeir said the truth was likely somewhere in the middle.
“There’s a kernel of historicity in the story of the kingdom of David,” he said.