2,000-year-old Ring Found in Pilgrim's Road to Temple Mount

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2,000-year-old ring found in City of David
2,000-year-old ring found in City of DavidCredit: City of David
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster
Ruth Schuster

It's annoying to lose your precious baubles in a public pool and probably was just as irksome 2,000 years ago too, when a ring seems to have slipped off the finger of an unwary bather in a mikveh. Or maybe it was taken off for the purposes of the ritual purifying bath, and was forgotten there.

It was announced Sunday that the corroded ring, with a blueish stone, was found by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists who were digging along the stone-paved stepped street, aka the pilgrim's road. By the standards of today's hands, the ring would probably have fit the average pinkie.

The corroded artifact was found in what seems to be the remains of a mikveh, said the archaeologists Nachshon Zenton, Moran Hajabi, Ari Levy and Dr. Joe Uziel. Ancient Jerusalem sported hundreds of ritual baths, not only for locals but to serve pilgrims en route to the Temple.

The monumental stepped road dates to the Second Temple period. It runs for about a kilometer (0.6 miles) up from the Siloam Pool (Breichat Shiloah in Hebrew) at the bottom of the hill and the Temple Mount at the top. Archaeologists believe it to have been the main street that pilgrims would take to the Temple.

The ring isn't the first precious artifact to be found in the City of David excavation south of Temple Mount. In August, archaeologists excavating beneath the former Givati parking lot found a golden earring from the Hellenistic period, around the second or third century B.C.E. The earring features a horned animal. The ornament and its composition led them to assume that the earring had belonged to someone from Jerusalem‘s upper classes.

Rare gold earring previously found in City of DavidCredit: Clara Amit

It wasn't the first high-end earring to show up beneath that parking lot. In 2008, archaeologists found an elaborate gold earring with a large, imperfect pearl and emeralds. That ornament was dated rather earlier, to the Roman era around 2,200 years ago. 

Earring with pearl and emeralds found in City of David in 2008Credit: Clara Amit

At about the same time, the archaeologists unearthed a treasure of 264 Byzantine gold coins, which they dated definitively – to 613, just before the Persian forces fighting for the Persian shah Khosrow II vanquished the Byzantines, with help of Jewish mercenaries.

In 2016, the University of Haifa's Ronny Reich reported finding intact cooking pots beneath the stepped road, in a roofed drainage canal that channeled rainwater away from the city.

Byzantine gold hoard found in City of David in 2008Credit: Clara Amit

The pots and other evidence led Reich to surmise that Jewish rebels against Rome had hid in the drainage system, perhaps hoping to wait out the Roman soldiers or perhaps to stage a last, desperate stand. Their fate remains unknown: just their pots survived.

Also in 2016, archaeologists found an even older item in the City of David: An amulet from the late Bronze Age, more than 3,200 years old, bearing the name of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III, pharaoh of the 18th dynasty.

Thutmose reigned from around 1479 B.C.E. to 1425 B.C.E. The amulet wasn't discovered in situ but via the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which has been sifting earth and debris discarded from the Temple Mount.

Finding such a remnant in Jerusalem was not a huge shock: As archaeologist Gabriel Barkay explained at the time, Thutmose had been the pharaoh who invaded Canaan and Syria, famously vanquishing a vainglorious coalition of Canaanite kings at the city of Megiddo (which the ancient Greeks called Armageddon) in 1457 B.C.E.