A couple of weeks ago, one of our RAD clients asked me “what would you find, if you could excavate the Temple Mount?” I have been often asked this question and usually answered jokingly “World War Three”.
Although this question is of course hypothetical, it is an interesting exercise to imagine what would have been left of the Herodian and earlier constructions after the Roman destruction in 70 AD. By studying the preserved height of the outer walls of the Temple Mount and the state of preservation of the underground structures, it is possible to make an educated guess as to what might be found if ever the possibility of excavating the Temple Mount would present itself.
A valuable source of information is the record of Charles Warren, who in the 1860′s investigated all the cisterns on the Temple Mount and took accurate readings of the top of the bedrock. This enabled him to create a topographical map of the rock contours. Here is his plan:
After studying this plan, I made a schematic drawing showing the outer walls of the three stages of the Temple Mount and also the layout of the rocky mountain, Mount Moriah, on which the Temple Mount was built, including the position of the water cisterns. Here is the drawing:
The earliest square Temple Mount was created, as explained in my book The Quest, in the days of King Hezekiah. I have been able to identify part of the western wall of this square, which is visible today as the lowest ‘step’ at the northwest corner of the raised platform, see these two photos:
The second phase was the Hasmonean extension, of which a part of the eastern wall can still be seen near the southeast corner of the Temple Mount:
The third phase is the Herodian extension, the walls of which can be seen all around the Temple Mount. In future posts I hope to show in much greater detail what might be found if the Temple Mount could be excavated. Keep checking this blog!