An unusual stepped structure newly uncovered in the City of David and dating from the Second Temple era may have been a podium for speeches, speculate archaeologists.
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The odd structure was discovered during a dig by the Israel Antiquities Authority along the Herodian way from the Pool of Siloam towards the Mount of Olives. The find consists of a pyramid-shaped staircase constructed of large, worked stones, located by the 2,000-year old Second Temple stepped street, which itself consists of enormous stone slabs.
Dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware have been found at the foot of the pyramid-shaped staircase.
The stepped street below it most likely runs above the 2,000 year old channel that drained rainwater from ancient Jerusalem, which was apparently built during the first century CE.
Given the uniqueness of the postulated podium – nothing like it has been found in Jerusalem or elsewhere in ancient Israel, its use of yore remains enigmatic, admit IAA archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Joe Uziel, who are directing the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Ancient lost and found?
The structure would have been visible from afar by passers-by walking to the Temple, they point out.
The IAA points out that Frederick Bliss and Archibald Dickie, British archaeologists who found a small portion of this structure about 100 years ago, thought they were steps into a house that had been destroyed and disappeared.
Rabbinic sources relate that various stones had served public purposes during the Second Temple period. One source cites an auction block: “[a master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6).
In the Mishnah and Talmud the “Stone of Claims” is mentioned as a place that existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period: "There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered” (Bava Metzia 28:B).