What Eilat Mazar Found

Eilat Mazar and her team discovered there are giant walls which extend from what she calls the Large Stone Structure (Kenyon’s “massive public structure”) six to eight feet wide extending beyond the area they have excavated in every direction. The walls follow the eastern side of the Large Stone Structure along the upper eastern fortification line of the City of David. Twenty feet below to the south is the famous Stepped-Stone Structure. This is the tallest Iron Age structure in Israel standing twelve stories high built into the side of the hill. Eilat and her team are of the opinion that the Stepped-Stone Structure supported the Large Stone Structure, that they were one complex.

It now appears that this Large Stone Structure was not a massive public building but a massive, opulent building built with imagination and considerable expense to inspire all who beheld it. It is around this building that the impressive ashlarstones were found along with the five foot long proto-Aeolic capital. The Proto-Aeolic capital is the most beautiful ever found in Israel, surpassing those of Samaria and Megiddo. Imagine the building it supported.

The foundations for this building appear to have been levelled and filled with crushed limestone to provide a substantial levelled area for this massive building. Mixed in with the crushed limestone are pottery fragments. There are badly worn fragments from Iron Age I in large quantities but small weathered elements. This suggests the large levelled area must have been open and exposed before the Large Stone Structure was built. Furthermore there appear to be three phases of construction over two centuries. The first phase when the Large Stone Structure was first built appears to have been close to the beginning of the Iron Age II a (around the middle of tenth century BC) when King David is said to have ruled Israel. Eilat and her team found a delicate black-on-red juglet imported from Cyprus largely intact dating from Iron Age II a (tenth to ninth century BC) in the north-eastern corner of the Large Stone Structure. They also found intact pottery dating from Iron Age II b (eighth to sixth centuries) which indicates the building was in use at the end of the First Temple period (586 BC).

The most startling piece of evidence they found was of a seal impression (bulla) used to seal documents. On it were three lines of Hebrew text, the second line of which had the letters SLM (Shalem). Eilat found in the first line the name Yehuchal. She wondered if it was a biblical name but couldn't recall such a name in the Bible. But there in the text of Jeremiah was the name Yehuchal (Jer 37:3). Eilat said, “I felt that I had just resurrected someone straight out of the Bible”. The full seal reads: Belonging to Yehuchal the son of Shelemiyahu son of Shovi. Shelemiyahu was the second royal minister at the time of Jeremiah after Gemaryahu ben Shafan (Jer 36:10). Gemaryahu’s bulla is the most famous of the Shiloh bullae.

The construction of the Large Stone Structure is unlikely to be the Jebusite fortress. What is it then? Is it a new temple? Hardly likely. The traditional site for that lies several hundred feet north of this site on Mount Moriah. What does the Large Stone Structure represent then? It is Eilat Mazar’s hunch that it is the palace of one who commissioned the new temple to the north. The theory fits all the facts they have uncovered so far. It is highly likely to have been King David’s palace.

Needless to say, work is continuing.

Source: Did I Find King David’s Palace? By Eilat Mazar

Biblical Archaeological Review - January / February 2006

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