Where does one obtain the multi-ton rocks required to build a city in ancient times? Archaeologists believe they have an answer, at least as far as the holy city of Jerusalem is concerned. In preparation for highway construction in the area, an ancient quarry has been unearthed, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) believes its stones were used to build the city. Along with the remains of the enormous quarry, ancient tools and a key were found, all dating to the first century C.E. This puts it squarely in Second Temple times.
Irina Zilberbrod, excavation director of the IAA, explains how the quarry was identified: “The quarrying phenomenon created a spectacular sight of bedrock columns and steps and craters of sorts that were the result of the rock-cuttings. What remained are rock masses in various stages of quarrying, and there were those that were found in a preliminary stage of rock-cutting prior to detachment.”
This is not the only quarry the IAA has found in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood in northeastern Jerusalem. In 2007, the IAA reported the discovery of a quarry that may have been used by Herod in the construction of the Temple itself, as well as other buildings. Evidence suggests the rocks quarried here were as large as 8 metres long. Nbcnews.com reports that the specific rock formations in the area may have attracted builders to the site. The Meleke formations are easy to quarry and harden soon after being cut. The area would also have been uphill from the Temple Mount at the time, simplifying transport. A first-century road discovered near the quarry may have even been used for that purpose. Researchers suggest that oxen and wooden rollers may have been used to transport the huge stones, and there are records of wood-lifting devices from the period that might have been employed.