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Apr 23, 2014

ancient chisel discovered near Kotel

It has been reported, first by Haaretz (at least, first from among the articles that I have seen), and now by others including INN, about a newly fascinating archaeological discovery of an ancient chisel that was likely used in the construction of the Kotel, the Western Wall.

From INN:
An astonishing archaeological discovery has been made at the feet of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The find is an ancient chisel, which apparently was used by the builders of the Western Wall of the Second Temple.
Archaeologist Eli Shukrun, who managed the excavations and found the rare tool, told Arutz Sheva that the chisel is "a moving discovery." He noted that the ancient chisel, which is made of metal, is 15 centimeters (six inches) long.
"For the first time, after 2,000 years, we have a tool of the builders of the Kotel (Western Wall)," remarked Shukrun, who has dug in the City of David and the Temple Mount area for the Israeli Antiquities Authority for 19 years.
The find was reportedly made under the Davidson Center Archaeological Park right by Robinson's Arch, just to the south of the Western Wall Plaza, reports Haaretz.
Shukrun has been digging in recent years in tunnels that lead from the City of David, go under the Old City walls and end at the Western Wall, which were essentially drainage tunnels for the Temple Mount.
The chisel was likely dropped by a builder working higher on the Western Wall according to Shukrun, who found the tool in a quarry refuse heap under the Western Wall.
While the find was made nine months ago, the Antiquities Authority has reportedly not publicized the find yet until final results are received.
"The Antiquities Authority is waiting for the research results on the material as is done with the rest of the finds made in excavations. When solid and firmly based results are received, the Authority will address the matter," added the statement.
However, Shukrun was certain of his find.
"I have no doubt that this is connected to the time of the Kotel's construction. We found it at the base of the Kotel, roughly six meters (20 feet) below the main street of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple," remarked Shukrun.
"The coins we found in that area and the ceramics point to the period of the building of the Kotel. The chisel itself was found in a refuse quarry which was made for chiseling the Kotel stones," added the archaeologist.

While it sounds like an exciting discovery, it doesn't actually sound quite as dramatic as they are making it out to be.

I am sure the archaeologists know what they are talking about, but from the published information, it sounds like they are basing their statements largely on assumption and guesswork. They found a chisel so they are assuming it was from someone on a scaffolding who dropped it. Nice assumption, but maybe it was also from a worker doing work down below, or maybe work on a structure near the Kotel, in the marketplace along the side of the Kotel or from a number of other options. I wish they would publish more significant information about their conclusions rather than just assumptions.

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  1. A metal tool? Was the 2nd Beit HaMikfdash different than the First or was the Kotel different because it was a retaining wall?

  2. good question. I thought the same when I first read it. I assumed either:
    1. it was not necessarily a tool for the Kotel
    2. the Kotel is only a retaining wall and perhaps did not have the same restrictions abotu cutting stone with metal
    3. even if it did have those restrictions, there is no guarantee Herod adhered to it (I dont know if he did or did not)

    then again, the original haaretz article also mentioned that this chisel is also the key to a theory that the kotel was not built by Herod but was built by someone after him.


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