The excavation site in the Russian Compound. One can see the sling stones on the floor, which are tangible evidence of the battle that was waged here 2,000 years ago. (Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” – Luke 19:41-44 (ESV)
Archaeologists have found remnants of a wall, believed to be the Third Wall of Jerusalem. This physical evidence likely puts to rest the debate about its location and gives additional insight to “The Fall of Jerusalem,” which occurred in AD 70 when Roman armies dug a trench and besieged the city. The Romans built a wall that would eventually be as high as the third wall of Jerusalem. This third wall was built to protect newer sections of the city that had been growing outside the protection of the first and second walls. The third wall was the weakest and would prove to be the easiest to defeat.
For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,” declares the LORD. “It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon and he will burn it with fire. – Jeremiah 21:10 (ESV)
According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, “During the course of the excavation archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western facade were scores of ballista and sling stones that the Romans had fired from catapults towards the Jewish guards defending the wall, who were stationed at the top of the tower.
Ballista and sling stones discovered by IAA archaeologists in the Russian Compound. (Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
A spearhead from the battle against Titus’ army. (Credit:Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)
This discovery made last year included finding the ground littered with more than 70 ballista and sling stones outside the wall, believed to be remnants from the Roman attack in the First Jewish Revolt. The finds were made in a location that will house the new campus of Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design, in the historic district known as the Russian Compound in central Jerusalem.
Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib, the excavation directors of the site, expressed that
“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple. The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses”.
These finds support the record of historian Flavius Josephus, an eye witness to the war, who provided many details about the battle and this wall. According to him, the wall was designed to protect the new quarter of the city that had developed outside its boundaries, north of the two existing city walls. This quarter was named Beit Zeita. The building of the Third Wall was begun by Agrippa I; however, he suspended its construction so as not to incur the wrath of Emperor Claudius and to dispel any doubts regarding his loyalty. The construction of the Third Wall was resumed some two decades later by the defenders of Jerusalem, as part of fortifying the city and the Jewish rebels’ preparations for the Great Revolt against Rome.
Close-up of the Arch of Titus depicting the Roman spoils from the Temple in Jerusalem. (Credit: Werner Forman – Getty Images)
Josephus described in detail the route of the wall that began at Hippicus Tower, which is now identified with David’s Citadel. From there the wall continued north to the enormous Psephinus Tower, which defended the northwestern corner of the city wall. At that point the wall turned east and descended toward the Tomb of Queen Helena, which is identified with the place known as the Tombs of the Kings.
1) Romans breach Third Wall May 25 and capture New City.
2) Romans enter Second Quarter. Jews withdraw behind first wall. May 30-June 2.
3) Titus’ divided attack on First Wall and the Antonia fail.
4) Romans build siege wall around city.
5) Romans renew assault on the Antonia. Fortress falls to Titus July 22.
6) Romans burn gates and enter Temple courtyards. On August 10 Temple destroyed by fire.
7) Romans burn the Lower City. September 2?
8) Romans assault Herod’s Palace and enter the Upper City. Resistance ends on September 26.
(Map and Steps are from:Destruction of Jerusalem fulfilled Matthew 24 in 70 AD at http://www.bible.ca/D-destruction-jerusalem-70AD-siege-map.htm)
And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. – 2 Chronicles 36:19 (ESV)
A 2,000 year old jar as it was discovered in the field. (Credit: Yoli Shwartz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)
Although excavation of the Temple Mount itself is not possible at this time, these discoveries join the finds from The Temple Mount Sifting Project to confirm both biblical and secular accounts of the long history of the First and Second Temples periods in Jerusalem from the time of the monarchy of Israel and Judah through the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.