The Kotel (Western Wall) is arguably the most important archaeological site in Israel. As the focal point of Israeli archaeology, there are new discoveries found periodically. However, the latest finds have been particularly exciting to archaeologists and tourists alike.
The Channel from the City of David to the Temple Mount
The most important archeological discovery in the Old City of Jerusalem is the ancient Second Temple Period water system, linking the City of David to the Western Wall. It is amazing to consider that this tunnel would have existed at the time of the second temple. This was the main water drainage tunnel that flowed through the Shiloah Pool and outside the city. Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron are the archaeologist leading this massive effort of unearthing these ancient structures and discovering the meaning and importance to the people of Israel during the Second Temple period.
Among the discoveries, Mr. Reich and Mr. Shukron uncovered many coins- including a shekel coin from the city of Tyre- and a miniature golden bell usually owned by people of importance, as described in Exodus 29:31, “They made pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material and twisted linen on the hem of the robe. They also made bells of pure gold, and put the bells between the pomegranates all around on the hem of the robe.” Another treasure found in the tunnels was a seal with the Aramaic words “Daka Le’Ya”, meaning “Pure for God”, possibly used to approve the purity of a sacrifice at the Second Temple.
The 14th Century Grand Hall
Another significant find has recently been uncovered under the Kotel. Archaeological excavations have revealed a 14th century grand hall in the tunnels under the Muslim Quarter. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has transformed the hall into an educational center focusing on the genealogy of the Jewish nation and the connection to Jerusalem. The Israel Antiquities Authority worked closely alongside the excavation to oversee the project, which was funded entirely by Zvi Hirsch Bogolyubov, a Jewish billionaire from Ukraine.
Ancient Bronze Coins
For hundreds of years it was widely accepted that King Herod the Great was responsible for the construction of Jerusalem’s Western Wall. However, due to recent discoveries this notion is now being refuted. While excavations were carried out underneath the Western Wall’s foundation stones, ancient bronze coins were found. Archaeologists were thrown for a loop when they examined the coins and found the stamp of Valerius Gratus, a Roman governor who served 20 years after Herod’s death. This places construction of the wall around 17 A.D. and indicated that Herod was not responsible for its completion. This finding substantiates the writings of venerated Roman historian, Josephus Flavius, who stated that construction of the wall was completed by Herod’s great-grandson, King Agrippa II.
With so many years of important history behind it, it is not surprising that new discoveries are being made under the Kotel even to this day. As the excavations continue, there is no doubt new significant findings are yet to be uncovered.