Ahead of Tisha B’Av – one of most magnificent Second Temple-Era buildings discovered in Jerusalem open to public

July 9, 2021 by TPS
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Impressive new sections of one of the most magnificent public buildings uncovered from the Second Temple period in Jerusalem was opened to public visits, days before Israel will mark Tisha B’Av, the day of mourning for the destruction of the two Temples.

The newly opened hall. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Part of the structure, to the west of Wilson’s Arch and the Temple Mount, was discovered and documented by Charles Warren in the nineteenth century, followed by various archaeologists in the twentieth century. Now that its excavation is complete, it is now known that it contained two identical magnificent chambers with an elaborate fountain between them.

The walls of the halls and the fountain were decorated with sculpted cornice-bearing pilasters, flat supporting pillars, topped with Corinthian capitals.

The decorative style of the building is typical of opulent Second Temple-period architecture.

 

“Visitors to the site can now envisage the opulence of the place, the two side chambers served as ornate reception rooms and between them was a magnificent fountain with water gushing out from lead pipes incorporated in the midst of the Corinthian capitals protruding from the wall,” she said.

The excavation also uncovered the original massive stone slabs with which the ancient building was paved. The archaeologists believe that the guest rooms, which were also used for dining, contained wooden reclining sofas that have not been preserved.

Reclining dining rooms were common in the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman worlds from the fifth century BCE to the third-fourth centuries CE. They are known in the archaeological record from private homes, palaces, temples, synagogue complexes and civilian compounds.

Dining or feasting while reclining is mentioned as early as the Book of Amos, in the first half of the eighth century BCE, when the prophet rebukes the people of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

In the late Second Temple period, before the Temple’s destruction, extensive changes made throughout the area included alterations to the building, which was divided into three separate chambers. In one of the chambers, a stepped pool was installed that was used as a ritual bath.

Mordechai Soli Eliav, Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that “it is exciting to reveal such a magnificent structure from the Second Temple period while we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and pray for its restoration.”

Shlomit Weksler-Bdolach, Excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said that the building was built around 20–30 CE. The building, which apparently stood along a street leading up to the Temple Mount, was used for public functions – it may even have been the city council building where important dignitaries were received before entering the Temple compound and the Temple Mount.

“Visitors to the site can now envisage the opulence of the place, the two side chambers served as ornate reception rooms and between them was a magnificent fountain with water gushing out from lead pipes incorporated in the midst of the Corinthian capitals protruding from the wall,” she said.

The excavation also uncovered the original massive stone slabs with which the ancient building was paved. The archaeologists believe that the guest rooms, which were also used for dining, contained wooden reclining sofas that have not been preserved.

Reclining dining rooms were common in the Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman worlds from the fifth century BCE to the third-fourth centuries CE. They are known in the archaeological record from private homes, palaces, temples, synagogue complexes and civilian compounds.

Dining or feasting while reclining is mentioned as early as the Book of Amos, in the first half of the eighth century BCE, when the prophet rebukes the people of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

In the late Second Temple period, before the Temple’s destruction, extensive changes made throughout the area included alterations to the building, which was divided into three separate chambers. In one of the chambers, a stepped pool was installed that was used as a ritual bath.

Mordechai Soli Eliav, Chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that “it is exciting to reveal such a magnificent structure from the Second Temple period while we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and pray for its restoration.”

TPS

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