The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and the Israel Antiquities Authority [IAA] are opening to the public impressive new sections of one of the most magnificent public buildings uncovered from the Second Temple period. The discovery—the fruit of archaeological excavations in the Western Wall Tunnels—will be part of the new route opened to visitors.
Part of the structure, west of Wilson’s Arch and the Temple Mount, was discovered and documented by Charles Warren in the nineteenth century, followed by various archaeologists in the twentieth century. Now that its excavation is complete, we know that it contained two identical magnificent chambers with an elaborate fountain between them. The walls of the halls and the fountain were decorated with sculpted cornice bearing pilasters (flat supporting pillars) topped with Corinthian capitals. The decorative style of the building is typical of opulent Second Temple-period architecture.
According to Dr. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolach, excavation director on behalf of the IAA:
“This is, without doubt, one of the most magnificent public buildings from the Second Temple period that has ever been uncovered outside the Temple Mount walls in Jerusalem. It was built in around [AD] 20–30. The building, which apparently stood along a street leading up to the Temple Mount, was used for public functions—it may even have been the city council building where important dignitaries were received before entering the Temple compound and the Temple Mount.”
Shachar Puni, architect for the IAA’s conservation department, explains:
“The new route provides a better understanding of the complex and important site known as the Western Wall Tunnels, while emphasizing the extent of this magnificent building. It creates a new visitors’ route that passes through the building and leads to the spacious compound at the foot of Wilson’s Arch (one of the bridges leading to the Temple Mount)…By making the route accessible and opening it to the public, visitors are introduced to one of the most fascinating and impressive sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.
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Source: Excerpt from a press release by the IAA
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