Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction

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:

step1.jpg step2.jpg

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!

This entry was posted in Excavations, History, Jerusalem, Research, Temple Mount. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Digging the Temple Mount – an introduction

  1. Al Sandalow says:

    >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.

    Hasn’t this step now been paved over, or am I thinking of another spot?

  2. Leen Ritmeyer says:

    No, the top of the step has not been paved over. Only the side of the step has been obscured by new pavement.

  3. Bruce Harpel says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the new drawing of the temple mount. A novice like me can really benefit from this sort of graphic.
    I would be interested if the newly discovered palace of King David could be drawn in an expanded version of this contours drawing?
    Thank you,
    Bruce Harpel

  4. Barbara Ingalls says:

    Am having trouble relating narratives about the gates of the Second Temple and the gates in the Herodian retaining wall to the photos. Can you send a link to a diagram specifying the names/locations of each gate in the retaining wall as well as the various gates of the Second Temple? That would be a big help!


  6. Adam Neira says:

    Thankyou for the website !

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  8. Dear Gentlemen:

    I suggest to read in this Research of the Temples mount: ” Le Temple de Jerusalem ”, written by the French Archaeologist André Parrot ( 1901 – 1980 ); in English ” The Temple of Jerusalem ”. This is one of the most serious study on the Two Temples I have ever read. You will find a depiction of the Second Temple in the Coin that Simon Ben Kokeba ( 132 AC ) made in the rebelion against the Romans. Very truly yours, Orlando.

  9. Parrot’s book was first published in French in 1954 and then in English in 1957. It is a good introduction to the story of the Temples of Jerusalem. The results of the Temple Mount Excavations, directed by the late Prof. Benjamin Mazar from 1968-78, however, have added much to our knowledge of the temple Mount. My own subsequent research on the archaeology and history of the Temple Mount was published in 2006: The Quest – Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, see:

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