Friday, January 15, 2010

City of David

A lot of interesting archaeological sites can, not surprisingly, be found in Jerusalem. Unfortunately this means they are closed on Saturdays. So I decided to get up early today to go check out "City of David" (Ir David). This is a rather controversial site just to the south of the Old City. It's thought to be the original city of Jerusalem (long before the "Old City"). There is no question there is an old (12 century BCE) wall and city here - the archaeological dispute rages around the scale of the city in and before the time of the "United Monarchy" (King David original conquest of the city is one of the big questions). Was Jerusalem just a small hilltop village run by a petty chief or was it really a huge and powerful state before the late ninth century BCE?

It's a fascinating site. I arrived (alone) at 8am just as they opened. I had to wait around till the workers got their act together. One remarkable thing is the number of guards stationed at all points. There must have been 15 or so spread out along the periphery. I suppose it has something to do with this being opposite Silwan, one of the "disputed" area in East Jerusalem. So while I was the only visitor, I certainly wasn't alone.

This is the view from the top of the lookout area. The graves opposite are the lower tombs on the Mount of Olives. This, I believe is the Kidron Valley. That's Silwan on the right hand side.
This wall is one of the disputed finds. The archaeologist that digs this site, Eilat Mazar, claims it's from the tenth century BCE and proof that Jerusalem was capital of a large kingdom. Others (including, or better yet, led Prof. Israel Finkelstein, whose course I am auditing) argue the structure is from the much later Hashmonean period (around 160 BCE). It's hard to date a wall.
This is a better view of Silwan. It's quite something, is Jerusalem. In Raanana it's easy to forget you're in the middle east. Not so in Jerusalem.
This is Warren's Shaft going down to the Gihon Spring. The spring was one of the main water sources in the ancient city. The spring was outside the city walls so during siege times, the inhabitants used the tunnel.
These are part of the old walls of the city. There is archaeological work going on here and in many other places in the site. This must be where a lot of the Israel Antiquities Authority's budget goes.
This part was cool. This is Hezekiah's Tunnel. Word is that in preparation for Sennacherib the Assyrian's siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, King Hezekiah built this 533 meter tunnel, chiseling through the rock (his workers, not him). The guard at the source of the spring told me to take off my shoes, roll up my pants, be brave and walk the wet tunnel (there is a dry way out too). It was awesome. He never told me it would be pitch dark, luckily I had my trusty Indiana Jones flashlight. My pants only got a little wet and they dried on the way back. The water was cold though (and 70cm deep, so it's quite a wade).
e tunnel comes out at the Siloam Pool. This pool is apparently just one part of a larger pool that is still being excavated and not open to the public. I seem to remember that there was a problem here a few months back with religious people bathing in the water (and frightening the locals). The pool is full of fungi and moss and I certainly would give swimming there a miss.
I was intrigued by these holes in the stones all around the pool. I wonder what they are. They look like they were made by falling water, but there is nowhere for water to fall from. The guard at the pool (Dawid) had no idea. He was busy arguing with some local taxi drivers anyway.

All in all a nice morning in Jerusalem. I was home by 11am, so I missed the traffic. It was great to be the only one at the whole site (as usual). I think I should do this Friday Jerusalem thing more often.

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