Excavations Reveal King Herod Didn't Complete Construction of Jerusalem's Western Wall

Israel Antiques Authority reveals discovery of mikveh alongside Jerusalem's ancient drainage channel.

Nir Hasson
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Nir Hasson

Recent archeological excavations in Jerusalem show that, contrary to popular understanding, King Herod was not solely responsible for constructing the Western Wall.

Israel's Antiques Authority announced Wednesday that the discovery of a mikveh (ritual bath) alongside Jerusalem's ancient drainage channel challenges the conventional archaeological perception that Herod built the wall in its entirety, saying it is now evident that construction was completed at least 20 years after Herod's death (believed to be in 4 BCE).

Coins discovered in excavations by Jerusalem's Western Wall, Nov. 23, 2011.Credit: Michal Fattal

The excavations, directed by IAA archaeologist Eli Shukron with assistance from Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, revealed three clay oil lamps of a type that was common in the first century CE as well as seventeen identifiable bronze coins.

The clay oil lamps and bronze coins were found when archeologists sifted through soil removed from inside the sealed mikveh.

According to Dr. Donald Ariel, curator of the IAA numismatic collection, the latest four coins were struck by the Roman procurator of Judea, Valerius Gratus, sometime around 17 or 18 CE – about 20 years after Herod's death.

"This bit of archaeological information illustrates the fact that the construction of the Temple Mount walls and Robinsons Arch was an enormous project that lasted decades and was not completed during Herods lifetime," said the IAA, adding that the find confirms descriptions by the Jewish historian Josephus, which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herods great-grandson) that the work was finished."

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: בניגוד לסברה עד כה || ממצאים חדשים מעלים: הורדוס לא בנה את הכותל המערבי

Israel Antiques Authorities reveal excavations that show King Herod did not complete the construction of Jerusalem's Western Wall, Nov. 23, 2011.Credit: Vladimir Naykhin