A Dig into Jerusalem's past fuels present-day debates





Down the slope from the Old City's Dung Gate, rows of thick stone walls, shards of pottery and other remains of an expansive ancient building are being exhumed from a dusty pit.

The site is on a narrow terrace at the edge of the Kidron Valley, which sheers away from the Old City walls, in a cliffside area the Bible describes as the seat of the kings of ancient Israel.

What is taking shape in the rocky earth, marked by centuries of conquest and development, is as contested as the neighborhood of Arabs and Jews encircling the excavation. But the Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar believes the evidence she has uncovered during months of excavation and biblical comparison points to an extraordinary discovery.

She believes she has found the palace of King David, the poet-warrior who the Bible says consolidated the ancient Jewish kingdom around the 10th century B.C. and expanded its borders to encompass the Land of Israel. Others are doubtful.

"There is sometimes a reality, a very precise reality, though maybe not all true, described in the Bible," Mazar said. "This is giving the Bible's version a chance."

Mazar's find is emerging at the nexus of history, religion and politics, volatile forces that have guided building, biblical scholarship and war in this city for millennia. Even before the findings have been assembled in a scientific paper, the discovery is prompting new thinking about when Jerusalem rose to prominence, the nature of the early Jewish kingdom, and whether the Bible can be used as a reliable map to archaeological discovery.




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