Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: 3,700-Year-Old Fortification Excavated in Jerusalem

by David Bedein

JERUSALEM - A huge fortification more than 3,700 years old, which is ascribed to the Canaanites (Middle Bronze Age 2), was uncovered in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is currently conducting in the “Walls Around Jerusalem" National Park in the City of David with funding provided by the 'Ir David' Foundation.

This image made available by Israel's Antiquities Authority Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 shows part of a a 3,700-year-old fortification wall discovered in Jerusalem’sCity of David, part of the earliest fortification construction on such a large scale ever found in Jerusalem. (IAA/Associated Press)

“This is the most massive wall that has ever been uncovered in the City of David and it rises to a height of 26 feet,” said Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, director of the excavation. “We are dealing with a gigantic fortification from the standpoint of the structure’s dimensions, the thickness of its walls and the size of the stones that were incorporated in its construction. The walls appear to be a protected, well-fortified passage that descends to the spring tower from some sort of fortress that stood at the top of the hill. The construction of a protected passage such as this is a plausible solution that explains the innate contradiction of the situation whereby the spring - which is a source of life from the standpoint of the fortress’ inhabitants in time of emergency - is located in the weakest and most vulnerable place in the area. The construction of a protected passage, even though it involves tremendous effort, is a solution for which there are several parallels in antiquity, albeit from periods that are later than the remains described here. A small section of the fortification was discovered in 1909 and it has been ascertained in the present excavations that it was part of an enormous wall. This is the first time that such massive construction that predates the Herodian period has been discovered in Jerusalem.”

During this period Jerusalem and the fields around it were an independent political entity with self-rule, similar to its neighbors Shechem to the north and Jericho to the east. Massive walls resembling the one that was just exposed in Jerusalem are known from Canaanite Hebron (Tel Rumeida), Shechem (Tel Balata) and Gezer.

“Even though it would seem we are dealing with impressive fortifications, the walls were after all primarily used to defend against marauding desert nomads who wanted to rob the city, ” said Professor Reich. “These are the earliest fortifications in the region and they bear witness to the fact that from this point on the settlement had became an urban entity with a ruler who had the capability and resources to build such a structure. A small settlement would have been unsuccessful in organizing such construction.”

The known section of the fortification is 18 feet long; however, it is thought the fortification is much longer because it continues west.

“The new discovery shows that the picture regarding Jerusalem’s eastern defenses and the ancient water system in the Middle Bronze Age 2 is still far from clear,” said Professor Reich. “Despite the fact that so many have excavated on this hill, there is a very good chance that extremely large and well-preserved architectural elements are still hidden in it and waiting to be uncovered.”

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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