Biblical Wall Located, Archaeologist Says

Regan E. Doherty in Jerusalem
Associated Press
November 30, 2007

A wall mentioned in the Bible and long sought by archaeologists apparently has been found, an Israeli archaeologist says.

A team of archaeologists identified the wall in Jerusalem's ancient City of David while trying to rescue a tower that was in danger of collapse, said Eilat Mazar, head of the Institute of Archaeology at the Shalem Center, a Jerusalem-based research and educational organization.

Artifacts—including pottery shards and arrowheads—found under the tower suggest that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., Mazar said this week.

The new findings suggest that the structure was part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said.

The Bible's Book of Nehemiah gives a detailed description of construction of the wall, which was destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.

Scholars previously thought the wall identified by Mazar dated only to the Hasmonean period from about 142 B.C. to 37 B.C.

"We were amazed," she said, explaining that many contemporary scholars have argued that the wall would not be found.

"This was a great surprise. It was something we didn't plan," Mazar said.

Ephraim Stern, professor emeritus of archaeology at Hebrew University and chairman of the Israeli archaeological council, offered support for Mazar's claim.

"The material she showed me is from the Persian period," the period of Nehemiah, he said. "I can sign on the date of the material she found."

Another scholar, however, disputed the significance of the discovery.

Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, called the discovery "an interesting find," but said the pottery and other artifacts do not indicate that the wall was built in the time of Nehemiah.

Because the debris was not connected to a floor or any structural part of the wall, the wall could have been built later, Finkelstein said.

"The wall could have been built, theoretically, in the Ottoman period," he said.

The first phase of the dig, completed in 2005, uncovered what Mazar believes to be the remains of King David's palace, built by King Hiram of Tyre, and also mentioned in the Bible.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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