National Geographic News
A picture shows a new excavation site outside the old city walls in Jerusalem on February 22, 2010.
Pictured on February 22, a newly excavated Jerusalem site includes a wall claimed to have been built by the biblical King Solomon.

Photograph by Menahem Kahana, AFP, Getty Images

Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel

for National Geographic News

Published February 26, 2010

A 3,000-year-old defensive wall possibly built by King Solomon has been unearthed in Jerusalem, according to the Israeli archaeologist who led the excavation. The discovery appears to validate a Bible passage, she says.

The tenth-century B.C. wall is 230 feet (70 meters) long and about 6 meters (20 feet) tall. It stands along what was then the edge of Jerusalem—between the Temple Mount, still Jerusalem's paramount landmark, and the ancient City of David, today a modern-day Arab neighborhood called Silwan.

The stone barrier is part of a defensive complex that includes a gatehouse, an adjacent building, and a guard tower, which has been only partially excavated, according to Eilat Mazar, who led the dig for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Over the years, the structures have been partially demolished—their building materials scavenged for later structures—and what remained was buried under rubble, Mazar said.

The Bible's First Book of Kings—widely believed to have been written centuries after the time period in question—says Solomon, king of Israel, built a defensive wall in Jerusalem. The new discovery is the first archaeological evidence of this structure, Mazar says.

(Related: "King Solomon's Mines Rediscovered?")

Bearing Out a Bible Passage?

Ancient artifacts found in and around the complex pointed Mazar to the tenth-century B.C. date.

"We don't have many kings during the tenth century that could have built such a structure, basically just David and Solomon," she said.

According to the Bible, King David, of David-and-Goliath fame, was the father of King Solomon, who is said to have built the First Temple of Jerusalem on the Temple Mount.

Ceramics found near the wall helped narrow the date down, being of a level of sophistication common to the second half of the tenth century B.C.—King Solomon's time, according to Mazar.

Three-foot-tall (one-meter-tall) earthenware storage vessels were found near the gatehouse, one of them with a Hebrew inscription indicating the container belonged to a high-ranking government official.

Figurines typical of tenth-century B.C. Jerusalem—including four-legged animals and large-breasted women likely symbolizing fertility—were also uncovered, as were jar handles bearing impressions reading "to the king" and various Hebrew names, she said.

The artifacts may hint at the area's street life in biblical times. Here ancient Jerusalemites would have gathered around the wall's city gate to trade, settle disputes via street-side judges, engage in ritual practices, and stock up on water and supplies for treks out of the city, Mazar said.

(Also see "Solomon's Temple Artifacts Found by Muslim Workers.")

How Reliable Is the Bible?

Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, who was not involved in the excavation, agrees that it's possible King Solomon constructed the wall.

But Finkelstein cautioned against leaning too heavily on the Bible to interpret the findings. (Related travel blog post: "In Israel, the Bible Is our GPS.")

Familiarity with religious or historic texts connected to any given site is important, he said, but their usefulness can vary.

"It depends upon the text. Each has its own characteristics, each needs to be approached differently," he said. "There is the question as to when it was written—300 years after, or at the time of the events? What are its goals and its ideology? Why was it written?"

For her part, Mazar believes it's natural for archaeologists excavating in the Holy Land to consult with biblical texts along with other ancient documents.

"I don't believe there is an archaeologist who would excavate a site upon which texts have been written without being familiar with those texts," she said.

Dan Pride
Dan Pride

"and later when you are proved wrong,... who cares? Your name is already there...

Amnon Ben Tor

Director Hazor Excavations

A new standard in exploitation for personal gain has been defined.

Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, who was not involved in the excavation, agrees that it's possible King Solomon constructed the wall.

Catherine Riley
Catherine Riley

Yes, but they haven't found any of the elaborate building materials described in the bible, such as iron plated stones or wood?  Bronze? Copper?  From my understanding her had enormous storehouses of various metals that were incorporated into all of his buildings.  Why no sign of these?

Candy Harden
Candy Harden

This morning was thinking about my hypothesis.If I'm correct then a Knight Templar can be identified. I had a thought that King Henry vii closet confidant was a direct bloodline of a knight Templar (the original).

Candy Harden
Candy Harden

So, I started digging to find paperwork to support my theory. Not only was I stun on how the earl of oxford flags is similar to the knight Templar's flags but king Henry vii closest confidant family can be traced back to king Solomon. Three of king Henry Vii Tudors have no records where their bury at. Earl of oxford was hired by Henry Vii but if you trace him the name changes to Devere then splits to DE VERE (time of Solomon). One person who fits the bill of being a member of the knight Templar is Sir Walter Raleigh, if you look closely someone right behind him name John Best comes in but then disappears then re appears in the books again (from records of King Henry Vii) then disappears

Candy Harden
Candy Harden

If you try to go back to find Sir Walter Raleigh descents it also disappears but, re appears under a different last name De VERE. Compare the buildings made by Water Raleigh family members (even later on) with the Knight Templar's they are building the same way. Look, good enough you will find every time the knight Templar's have dealings with kings or countries not only a De vere was right here but beside the king or that countries leader at every location, the de ver family settlement was there also. Two people also connected the dots and I saved my research if ask to provide information

Candy Harden
Candy Harden

The greatest stunner is a world archaeologist specializing in the Bible is a De ver, guess where he at? Look closely, see the different spellings are De ver and how it was used. Makes alot sense why knight Templar's has precious of everything. I'm speechless! My good guess, the Knight Templar that was found in Ireland, people need to look as see if there was a De Ver or (any spelling) DE Vere living in Ireland as a child then, later on came back to Ireland as an adult.. Now I'm thinking, the Knight Templar's (later on after Solomon) were the middle men between the Church and Leaders of the time period. However, I still hold Strong that someone moved the items for a Knight Templar because he saw in others greed. I didn't know why this weekend I kept thinking about king Solomon, but as of today I'm getting married:)

lisa gilbert
lisa gilbert

@Catherine Riley The bible says the Babylonians took everything of value in the temple when they invaded the city and destroyed the temple.


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