The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery of a stone structure in the Jerusalem Walls National Park within the City of David archaeological site. The structure has been dated to the era of the Second Temple (349 bce to 70 ce ).
The stone structure, in the shape of a stepped pyramid, was partially uncovered by British archaeologists over a century ago and erroneously identified as steps leading up to a since-eradicated home. The new progress by the joint efforts of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the City of David Foundation has uncovered its full pyramidal shape. The Israel Antiquities Authority has not been able to definitively determine the exact use of the structure, but its shape and location on the Second Temple’s stepped street suggest that it may have been a platform for public announcements on the busy thoroughfare. Excavation directors Nahshon Szanton and Dr. Joe Uziel point out that a speaker on the podium would have been highly visible, making it easy to convey anything from civil announcements, religious messages or even local gossip. However, because of the unique nature of the steps in the extant Israeli archaeological record, the Antiquities Authority has been unable to verify the structure’s exact use.
The stone steps are ashlar, masonry of the highest quality often used for extremely tight stonework with thin joints, and the discovery of the steps was accompanied by a number of pottery, stone and glass vessels around the site, many of them intact. The date of its construction has been placed at around 40 ce , only three decades before the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman Emperor Titus. The unique design, advantageous placement and good condition of the discovery suggest its importance in its time. Rabbinic sources indicate that blocks were used for public auctions: “[a master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6). However, no direct evidence links this particular podium to such mercantile activity.
The stepped street, also known as the Siloam Road, carries its own weight in the city’s history. The two-millennia-old street runs from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. The Pool of Siloam, fed by the Gihon Spring, lies on the southern slope of the City of David archaeological site. According to the Gospel of John, this pool is the site Yeshua told the man blind from birth to go to complete his healing: “Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, put the mud on the man’s eyes, and said to him, ‘Go, wash off in the Pool of Shiloach!’ (The name means ‘sent.’) So he went and washed and came away seeing.” (John 9:6–7) The same pool was still in use at the time of the construction of these stone steps. The Pool was destroyed during the Siege of Jerusalem that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple, filling with up to four meters of silt over time until its rediscovery by Israeli archaeologists in recent decades.
Pilgrims would have used this street on their way to the Temple Mount before Titus’s siege of the city in 70 ce . The siege was a response to the first major Judean uprising against Roman rule in 66 ce (the Great Revolt), an escalation of religious tensions and taxation protests. According to Josephus, Titus’s legions besieged the city from the east and the west, and when the walls were breached, and the invaders flooded the city streets, a Roman soldier hurled a torch into the temple. The interior caught fire and was razed by the Romans, along with a large portion of the lower city while the Judean rebels retreated to the affluent upper city, where the city’s upper classes and priesthood resided. In being destroyed, the temple avoided the fate Titus intended, of being remodeled and turned into a temple venerating the Roman Emperor and the Roman pantheon. Had the temple survived, it might have been used as a propagandistic icon of Roman imperialism well into future centuries. The destruction of the Second Temple was a tremendous factor in the dispersion of the Jewish people across the world and the decentralization of Rabbinic thought that evolved throughout the medieval era, giving rise to varying Rabbinic schools across the Muslim world and Christian Europe.