In 1995 the Diggings group of volunteers excavated at the Western Wall of Old Jerusalem. One stretch of this wall is used by men and women for prayers, Jewish ceremonies and pilgrimages. For centuries this wall was known as “the wailing wall”, for Jews would come here to pray and lament the destruction of the temple. It is the world’s most sacred site for Jews and is visited by religious and secular Jews alike.
The Western Wall is actually a section of the retainins wall for the courtyard of the temple that stood there in the days of Jesus Christ. He predicted that “there woud not be one stone left there upon another” and this was fulfilled when the Roman armies under Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD.
In the course of our digging we exposed many of the huge limestone blocks that had once formed part of the temple courtyard wall and which had been thrown down to the pavement below. It was a sobering exercise to think that we were uncovering blocks of stone which had stood there in the time of Christ. They were mute witnesses to the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy.
Our work was only a small contribution to the continuing archaeological activity that aimed at exposing and restoring the whole area south of the section where the Jews pray. That work has now been completed and in a recent edition of Eretz Ronny Reich, who was in charge of the entire operation, has made a final report on these excavations.
Visitors to Jerusalem have long been abe to see some stones jutting out from near the top of the existing wall. They were first identified by Edward Robinson, who concluded that they were part of an arch which carried a bridge across the Tyropoean Valley to an entrance into the temple. Excavations have demonstrated that it was actually an arch that enabled pedestrians from the pavement below to climb steps leading up to the temple gate above it. Our excavations were just to the north of Robinson’s Arch.
A pavement ran along beside the wall, forming a shopping mall with the wall on one side of the pavement and shops on the other. Of this footpath Ronny Reich said, “The ancient street along the Western edge of the Temple Mount was paved with hard rectangular limestone slabs of uneven size, some of which were quite large compared to any example of paving stones known to us from other Hellensitic and Roman cities. The largest of them reached a length of seven feet and they were thick, about 18 inches. After we had uncovered a fairly long portion of the street an interesting phenomenon caught our eye. On each of the hundreds of paving stones that we had uncovered, all of the chisel marks were clearly distinguishable, from the roughest marks of a single-pointed chisel to the delicate marks made by a comb chisel. Our impression was that the paving stones had been trodden upon by passers-by for only a very short while and thus were hardly worn.” In other words, the pavement had been laid only a short while before the Roman conquest of the city.
Altogther 130 coins were found on the pavement by the excavators. All of them were bronze “widows’ mites”. No silver Roman denarii or pennies were found, which is understandable. They were worth a day’s wages in Christ’s day and He referred to them in the parable of the landowner who hired labourers and agreed to give them a denarius – a penny, according to the KJV – for their day’s wages. (Matthew 20:1, 2)
It is surprising that so many bronze coins were found. They had apparently been dropped by careless shoppers who had either not noticed their loss or did not care to search for them in the rubbish which littered the street and they were quickly smothered by dust and left there for 2000 years.
An unexpected find on this pavement was a whole pile of coins on the pavement next to one of the shops – 200 of them! That could not have been the result of carelessness; the first passer-by would have pounced on them.
Ronny concluded: “Probably what happened was that the coins had been hidden in a cache in the wall of the adjacent shop. When the Romans dismantled the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, one of the first stones to fall hit the roof of the store, demolishing it on the spot. The cache in the wall was breached and the coins it contained were flung into the street, only to be immediately covered with the massive stone blocks that came crashing down after the first.”
When these coins were cleaned and examined, it was found that they could be dated to the time of the temple in Jesus’ day, the latest three being 69 AD, which would have been the year before the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus.
Another batch of 30 coins was found beneath the pavement. Some of them had been minted by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea from 26 to 36 AD. It was he who tried Jesus Christ and consigned Him to death on the cross. (Matthe 27:1-26)
Visitors to the Western Wall marvel at the huge stones that can still be seen at the base of the retaining wall and wonder how the Romans managed to trasport them from the quarry about half a mile from the temple site. A number of theories have been put forward and Ronny decided to do a practical experiment to test the practicality of one of them.
The Roman architect Vitruvius was a contemporary of Augustus Caesar and King Herod, who both lived at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. He left a record of building activities from that time in which he describes how big stones were moved by constructing wooden wheels around the block of stone and then rolling it to the building site.
Ronny had a carpenter build such a wheel around a stone which weighed 4.5 tons and found that it took eight strong men to roll the stone. So that method worked for the stone they moved, but it is a long shot from one of the stones that can still be seen at the corner of the wall which is 25 feet long and is estimated to weigh 400 tons!
The last work done in this area was to clear the pavement to enable visitors to the area to actually walk along the street that had once been thronged by shoppers in the days before the destruction of the temple, but Ronny decided to leave one pile of huge stones permanently so that visitors will have a graphic reminder of the dramatic events that took place when the Romans destroyed the temple. He concludes his report: “According to the Christian version, the remains of the avalanche of stones are clear confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of the Temple Mount.”
Article used with permission of Diggins Online. You can find more useful material at Apologtetics Courses, Free Courses and Brethren Assembly. Secular materials can be found at Coins Encyclopedia and Guide For Income