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Eilat Mazar

Temple Mount Excavations

View of the eastern side of the Temple Mount excavations, looking north.

Excavations on a colossal scale were conducted at the foot of the southern wall and southwestern corner of the Temple Mount enclosure in Jerusalem from 1968-1978, under the direction of Benjamin Mazar and on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In the end, the excavation area reached a total of eight acres.

Southwestern corner of the Temple Mount enclosure, with accumulations atop the Herodian streets, looking northeast.

View of the eastern part of the Temple Mount excavations at the foot of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, looking northeast.

The expedition was witness to the discovery of monumental buildings and an indescribably rich and variegated corpus of archaeological data spanning three millennia of Jerusalem's history. They include fortifications, identified as the Solomonic wall of Jerusalem, and royal buildings of the Israelite city of the First Temple period; the architectural remains of King Herod's great expansion and renovation of the Temple Mount at the end of the Second Temple period; buildings left from the 10th Roman Legion's encampment in the city after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE; dwellings of a residential quarter that flourished in the area as Jerusalem became a Christian pilgrimage center in the Byzantine period; and the magnificent Umayyad palace complex constructed at the beginning of the 8th century C.E. Indeed, the Temple Mount excavations, at the foot of one of the world's most sacred spots-needless to say, a focal point in the economic and political development of ancient Jerusalem-yielded archaeological remains revolutionary in their contribution to our understanding of the history of the city.

The documentation, processing, and study of the wealth of finds unearthed in these excavations has been an ongoing project since the conclusion of work in the field. They have and will continue to be published in Qedem, the Monographs of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The first final report, dealing with the Iron Age findings from the excavations, was published in a volume written by Benjamin Mazar and Eilat Mazar in 1989. After the death of Benjamin Mazar in 1995, the publication project continued under the directorship of Eilat Mazar. The second report, published in 2003, is the first of two volumes (the second has been submitted for publication) that present remains of Byzantine period structures at the site. The fourth volume, also awaiting publication, will focus on the post-70 CE Roman period; and the fifth, in preparation, will discuss the Herodian period findings from the excavations. The ongoing preparation of these volumes has harnessed the efforts and expertise of many scholars of various fields of archaeology, and has been assisted by graduate and undergraduate students. Research necessary for the preparation of the final reports has also brought about new innovations in the research of Jerusalem.

Benjamin Mazar gives David Ben-Gurion (to his right) and Teddy Kollek (to his left) a tour during the excavations.

The remains of the Herodian street along the Western Wall, near Robinson's Arch. Lying directly on the street is the stone rubble from the Temple Mount enclosure walls, razed by the Romans in 70 CE.