Radiocarbon analysis confirmed the antiquity of Wilson’s arch in Jerusalem

Israeli archeologists have dated the construction of the Jerusalem “Great bridge”, leading to the temple mount, the period from 20 BC until 70 ad. Article published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Great bridge serves as the entrance to the temple mount from the West side of the city. It is the street that runs from the Jaffa gate, went up to the temple mount. The only remnant of the bridge, now visible on the earth’s surface — the so-called Wilson’s arch (named after the British surveyor, who described it in 1864).

Scientists have long argued about when the bridge and, in particular, Wilson’s arch was built. Some associated this structure with the planning program of Herod the Great (40-4 year BC), which included the reconstruction of the Temple. Others thought that the bridge was only built in the VII century BC, during the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Arab conquest.

Large-scale archaeological research of the buried supports of the bridge was carried out in 2015-2019. A group of archaeologists led by Johanna Regev (Regev Johanna) from the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot dated by the radiocarbon method of 33 samples of organic materials, extracted from the masonry of the bridge: seeds and slivers caught in a mortar. Scientists have identified and dated eight archaeological strata and were able to reconstruct the history of the bridge.

It was built in two stages. The first dates back to 20 BC – 20 BC, i.e. to the period of the reign of Herod the Great and his immediate successors. Thus, the historical Jesus could go to Church on the bridge. The second phase of construction dates from 40-70 years BC. At this time, the bridge was doubled, and arch Wilson acquired its present appearance. Probably, the construction was completed prior to ‘ 66, when Judea rose in revolt against Roman rule, and in the year 70, during the siege of Jerusalem by Roman troops, the bridge was destroyed by rebels to prevent enemies on the temple mount. After suppression of revolt the Temple was destroyed. In the period from 95 to 135 years at the foot of the arch began construction of the building, reminiscent of a Roman theater, but it was not completed. Probably work was interrupted by the Bar Kochba revolt (132 – 136 years). His remains were found in 2017.

Later this place turned into a dump. In the V century, under the Byzantines, at the foot of Wilson’s arch was constructed the water tank. Archaeologists have not found this place traces the construction belonging to the middle of VII century — the period immediately after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem.

In 2019, the archaeologists were able to date another important Jerusalem monument is a stepped street leading from the Temple mount to the Siloam pond. It turned out that it belongs to the same period 30 years of our era.

Artem Efimov

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