[ALT] Prof. B. Mazar
Prof. B. Mazar at the Royal Building during the resumed excavations in 1987.

[ALT] Small bowl and pithoi sherds
Small bowl and pithoi sherds on the floor of the Royal Building.

[ALT] Broken pithoi in Royal Building
Broken pithoi on the floor of the eastern room of the Royal Building, looking west.

[ALT] Pithoi
Three of the 12 pithoi found in the Royal Building.

In the Beginning... (The First Temple Period)

Jerusalem has been settled for around five thousand years. King David, in approximately 1000 BC, purchased a threshing floor, c. 250 meters (820 feet) north of the City of David, on Mount Moriah from Araunah (also called Ornan) the Jebusite. King Solomon built the first Temple on mount Moriah, which accelerated the expansion of the city northwards. The area between the City of David and Mount Moriah is called the Ophel. This area served as the location of the Inner Citadel of the city and included the king’s palace and the administrative center of the kingdom.

For prolonged periods, the area served for different masters at different times, for different nations and different religions.

The First Temple period (10th-6th Centuries BCE)

King David purchased the area of the threshing floor on Mount Moriah now known as the Temple Mount (2 Samuel 24:21-25). King Solomon built the Temple there and added a new palace complex to the south. He also built the new city wall around the Temple Mount and the Ophel, the area between the City of David and the Temple Mount that met the old wall of the City of David.

The new acropolis, “the upper house of the king” (Nehemiah 3:25), was added to the lower house (the palace) of the king in the City of David. The new acropolis covered the southern part of the Temple Mount and the northern part of the Ophel. The Ophel refers to a place of high elevation in the city and the location of the Inner Citadel, which included the palace and the royal administrative center. It served as a sophisticated royal citadel and stronghold to contend with both internal and external dangers.

1. The Water Gate

“And the Temple servants living on the Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower” (Nehemiah 3:26).

Architectural remains found in the southeastern edge of the excavated area represent a typical gate of the biblical period. Based on finds beneath the floors of the gate and the adjoining royal building, the construction of these structures can be dated to the 10th century BCE and associated with the wall of Jerusalem built by King Solomon (The Solomonic Wall).

2. The Projecting Tower

“After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel” (Nehemiah 3:27).

It appears the jutting tower near the Water Gate, which is built of magnificent masonry of large ashlar stones, fits this description.

3. The Royal Building

A Royal Building was constructed adjoining the Water Gate. Twelve pithoi (exceptionally large storage jars), used as wine or oil containers, were found on the floors of these rooms. On one of these pithoi, a Hebrew inscription referring to one of the government ministers was found.

4. The Western Ophel Wall

The eastern wall of the Roman Tenth Legion camp probably followed the earlier remains of the ancient wall of Jerusalem that King Solomon built. This wall borders the Ophel on the west.

5. The Burial Ground

Professor Benjamin Mazar suggested that the western end of the excavation area served as a burial ground during the First Temple period. It was cleared in the 8th Century BCE, when the Western Hill was incorporated into the city limits.