Excavations at the Armon Hanatziv promenade to the south of Jerusalem have uncovered architectural objects from the First Temple period (1000-586BC).1 Among the finds are various decorative items from window frames and complete limestone capitals that would have topped stone columns and balustrades. Yaakov Billig, director of the excavation by the Israel Antiquities Authority said that the items are well preserved, with a high degree of workmanship. The discoveries were made during excavations for a planned visitor centre.

The capitals are in the proto-Aeolic style, common to Phoenician architecture and the fore-runner of the Ionic capital.2 This style of capital was typical of royal buildings, according to expert opinion.

The capitals also date the discoveries to the period of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with construction sometime between the reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah. This appears to have been a period of confidence and prosperity for the Kingdom of Judah3 during which houses and buildings were constructed beyond the security of Jerusalem’s walls. In commemoration of the First Temple era, the State of Israel’s modern five shekel coin bears the image of a proto-Aeolic capital similar to those found at the Armon Hanatziv promenade.

It is suggested therefore that these architectural artefacts are from a palatial structure built in the period of peace following the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians led by King Sennacherib in 701BC.4 It is believed that settlement spread outside the city walls as people felt safe from the threat of attack following the destruction of Sennacherib’s army and withdrawal of the Assyrians. From the palace, the view overlooking Jerusalem and King Solomon’s Temple would have been stunning.

One puzzling aspect of the discovery is that archaeologists found the capitals carefully buried. The rest of the building appears to have been destroyed in the Babylonian plunder of Jerusalem in 586BC, and its materials later re-used.

Recent discoveries of houses, palaces and government buildings at Ramat Rachel as well as on the slopes of Arnona south of Jerusalem, are further evidence of development outside the walls of the City of David in the First Temple era.

Modern Israel is committed to promoting ancient Jerusalem’s past through archaeological excavation and tourism development. Archaeology provides evidence of the connection of the Jewish people to their history and heritage as recorded in the Bible.

Discovery and excavation of historic sites verifies the Jewish association with Jerusalem and the land of Israel in the past. But the Scriptures speak of a much greater future for Israel when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. When God’s Kingdom is established Jerusalem shall be “builded upon her own heap” (Jer 30:18). God has appointed a place for His people and they shall “move no more” (2 Sam 7:10).

References

  1. Jonathan Laden, “Architectural Artifacts from First Temple Period Found”, Bible History Daily, September 07, 2020, online at: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/royal-structure-remains-from-first-temple-period/?%20mqsc=E4119813&dk=ZE0490ZF0&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=BHDDaily%20Newsletter&utm_campaign=9_7_2020_Artifacts%20from%20First%20Temple%20Period%20Found “At popular Jerusalem promenade, archaeologists find a First Temple-era palace” / by TOI staff, The Times of Israel, 3 September 2020, online at: https://www.timesofisrael.com/at-popular-jerusalem-promenade-archaeologists-find-a-first-temple-era-mansion/#gs.ft0bjc
  2. Santoso, Agus. “Proto-Aeolic Capital” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified May 12, 2016, online at: https://www.ancient.eu/image/5099/
  3. Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament, Zondervan, 1954, p. 265.
  4. The narrative of the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem is recorded in 2 Kings 18:13-19:37, 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, and Isaiah chapters 36-37.