Probably my favourite place in Jerusalem is the Southern Wall excavations. I lead tours there all the time. It is a place where one can truly "feel" the Beit Mikdash, walking on its street, standing on its steps and approaching its gates. You behold the enormous stones, and the sheer size of the Herodian structure and it is exhilarating. In the absence of the Mikdash, you get a glimpse at the Southern Wall. (My most rewarding moments as an educator are when I feel that I have passed on this feeling to my students. A month ago I bumped into a student in Jerusalem, who told me that as a result of our tour there, she convinced her family to hold her brother's Bar-Mitzva there! Yeah!)
When I see archaeologist uncovering our history, it intrigues and attracts me, it excites me. Last Thursday on the way to the Southern Wall, I passed Ir David. And there were a team of about 40 people, probably students if I can judge them by their age, digging. But where were they digging? At the top of the hill... the site which archaeologist Eilat Mazar claims is King David's palace! (and it is certainly a palace which was inhabited by Judean Royalty.) I was so tempted just to role up my sleeves and join them. Amazing! To be uncovering King David's Palace!
So yesterday, the next exciting Mikdash related find was uncovered. They think they have found the quarry in which Herod excavated the enormous stones (some weighing 300 tons!) for the Temple. See this article and here with pictures.
Here is a quote:
The source of the huge stones used nearly 2,000 years ago to reconstruct the compound in Jerusalem's Old City was discovered on the site of a proposed school in a Jerusalem suburb.
"This is the first time stones which were used to build the Temple Mount walls were found," said Yuval Baruch, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority involved in the dig. Quarries mined for the massive stones, each weighing more than 20 tons, eluded researchers until now, he said.
Baruch said coins and pottery found in the quarry confirm the stone was used during the period of Herod's expansion of the Temple Mount in 19 B.C.
But researchers said the strongest piece of evidence was found wedged into one of the massive cuts in the white limestone — an iron stake used to split the stone. The tool was apparently improperly used, accidentally lodged in the stone and forgotten.
"It stayed here for 2,000 years for us to find because a worker didn't know what to do with it," said archaeologist Ehud Nesher, also of the Antiquities Authority.
Nesher said the large outlines of the stone cuts indicated the site was a massive public project worked by hundreds of slaves. "Nothing private could have done this," Nesher said. "This is Herod's, this is a sign of him."
After finding Herod's grave site at Herodian a few months ago, this is proving to be quite a year for the archeologists!