Israeli archaeologists have once again revealed an exciting discovery.
And they think it could provide important information about the city’s first temple.
Not only that, but the discovery gives new insight into life under Kings Hezekiah and Josiah!
“This is a very exciting discovery,” said Yaakov Billig, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Billig, who directed the team in Jerusalem, believes that his team has found part of a mansion that was erected during the First Temple Period (c. 957 B.C.).
During their excavation, Billig and his team unearthed a rare set of two column heads, also called capitals.
The capitals, both of which were in excellent condition, were made of limestone and etched with ornate designs.
“This is a first-time discovery of scaled-down models of the giant Proto-Aeolian capitals, of the kind found thus far in the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, where they were incorporated above the royal palace gates,” said Billig.
“The level of workmanship on these capitals is the best seen to date, and the degree of preservation of the items is rare,” the archaeologist continued.
Billig and his team were thrilled to find such complete pieces of decorated stone, and they’re excited to imagine what these capitals could tell them about the world of early Jerusalem.
According to their research—and other artifacts found near the same area—the stone columns date back to the time of the Judean kings.
The experts have hypothesized that the capitals are “remnants of a grand mansion that overlooked the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City.”
Located at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem, this mansion could have belonged to a wealthy Israelite family or a noble in the king’s court.
Each column capital prominently features an ancient symbol that dates back to the biblical kingdoms of Israel and Judah (as described in the books of 1 and 2 Kings).
This symbol, also present on Israel’s contemporary five shekel coin, contains many layers of meaning and history.
And the rest of the mansion, though demolished, also provides important insights about an incredible time in Israelite history!
The mansion was most likely built between the reigns of kings Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-20) and Josiah (2 Kings 22-23).
This was a tumultuous time in Israel’s history, as the Assyrians conquered Jerusalem in 701 B.C. (2 Kings 24) and destroyed much of the city’s architecture and art.
Billig explained that this discovery provides a glimpse into the effects of the Assyrian siege and takeover.
He noted that the discovery of the columns fit well with other recent archaeological explorations in the area, which show the same destruction.
“This find [is placed] alongside the palace that was found in the past at Ramat Rachel and the administrative center found on the slopes of Arnona,” Billig said, describing other excavation sites that have yielded important historical information.
According to Billig, these sites display the destruction wrought by the city’s Assyrian captors—and the change in Israelite life and architecture after the siege was lifted.
“[These discoveries] attest to a revival of the city and leaving the walled areas of the First Temple era after the Assyrian siege.”
“[Later in history] we find villas, mansions, and government buildings in the unwalled areas outside the city and this attests to the relief felt by the residents of the city after the siege was lifted.”
Billig, his team, and other Israeli archaeologists plan to continue excavating the area in order to determine more about post-siege life in Jerusalem.
And prominent Israeli officials stand behind the archaeological work, eager to share the history and heritage of their nation.
“The uncovering of the remains of the building reflects the glorious roots of the Jewish people and our rich past here in the capital city Jerusalem,” said Hili Tropper, Israel’s current Minister of Culture and Sport.
Tropper called the recent discovery “a window” into the history of the Jewish people.
“I see great importance in the work of the Israel Antiquities Authority and in the work of the City of David [another archaeological organization] in their discoveries over the years, which reveal parts of the illustrious Jewish past.”
“The past is the cornerstone of a nation, and the cornerstone of culture and its discovery also affects the present as well as the future,” Tropper concluded.
Stay tuned for more important archaeological discoveries in Israel and around the world!