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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peeling back Jerusalem's most ancient layers...

I set out a theory and proof that ancient occupiers of the hills of Jerusalem, with significant help from their regional allies offensively constructed the massive fortified corridor (MFC), adjacent to the Gihon Spring specifically to discourage Israel's return.

A conclusive theory of Jerusalem's Middle Bronze (MB) to Iron Age period continues to evade archaeologists and historians. One study by Hillel Geva tracks the development of Jerusalem's population and provides an excellent overview of the areas the city expanded to through the ages. I will use the breadcrumbs of population growth, as found in Middle Bronze age archaeology to reconstruct the first period of the cities development.


The bewildering aspect is the absence of any archaeological trace of a Middle Bronze western city wall in the presence of the MFC (South) adjacent to the Gihon Spring. Perhaps even more complex is the scant evidence of any complete eastern city wall, one that should have certainly left traces at intervals.  I will demonstrate that the MFC was not constructed to protect water, but to serve some other motive.

The massive Middle Bronze II (MB II) fortress erected around the Gihon Spring undoubtedly required a major economic effort and substantial manpower (Boas-Vedder 2001; Reich 2011: 248–261). This does not mean that the inhabitants of the city were necessarily the builders of the massive structures; much of the manpower may have been recruited from the hinterland (Geva 2014).

Israel Finkelstein shares the view that the MBII fortress and area around the Gihon Spring remained somewhat independent. The old mound of Jerusalem was located on the Temple Mount (Ophel) and activity on the City of David ridge (the southeastern hill of Jerusalem) was restricted to the area around the Gihon Spring (Finkelstein, Koch and Lipschits 2011) In other words he supports the view that a MB II wall, which has not yet been discovered, may not have existed at that time.

Middle Bronze II - Warren Shaft System, Fortification and Gihon Spring. To align see (E) in the image below.
Coming out of the upper tunnel (Tunnel VI) to the eastern slope, a traveler finds himself outside (to the north) of the MFC rather than on a path leading into it, as one would expect if the corridor had already been built before the Warren Shaft System (WSS). This indicates that the WSS was built before the MFC. Since the corridor is known to be Canaanite in age, it follows that the WSS must also be of Canaanite age. (Dan Gill 2011)

With the increase in the city's population and the changes that took place in the geopolitical circumstances in the region, the City of David became one of the City-States that ruled the country. In the face of the prevailing political rivalries from within and without, the city rulers embarked on a comprehensive, state-funded, integrated program to protect the city and its vital water resources. Presumably, the city walls, the spring tower and MFC, as well as the Siloam Channel, were built at this stage. (Dan Gill 2011)

This invokes many questions, particularly related to evidence the Parker-Vincent expedition of 1909 uncovered and that has been principally ignored by Israel's modern archaeologists.

Figure 2 - Parker and Vincent map with photo overlay, sitting at position [K-21-b] (above)
An amateur researcher would be hard pressed to find any archaeological reference to Jerusalem's oldest cave dwelling, but for a 1909-1911 photo of Parker and Vincent. This photo exposes [K-21-b] on the Vincent map, a cave dwelling elevated ~20m above the valley floor on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah, south of the Gihon Spring. The cave dwelling (K) dates back to the early and mid bronze age. Vincent discovered tombs in the vicinity that were dated to 3000 B.C.E. . None of the finds from these tombs dates later than the Early Bronze Age.

I rely on the hypothesis that this initial cave dwelling was developed by and for important occupants because of its substantial size and features relative to the period of its construction. On this and evidence in the immediate areas around this cave dwelling, I reconstructed the development logic of population growth in the area.

Parker and Vincent excavated K as well as extensions L, M and passage N, adjacent to the more recently excavated area east of L, K, J and P. This area south of the, the Rock-cut Pool(Fig. 1) forms an elevated platform ~3m above the top step leading to the Round Chamber (Fig.1), the lowest part of the Rock-Cut Pool.

Figure 3 Lower section of Parker and Vincent overlay map on Reich-Shukron Figure 1 map
Figure 3 is a complete context map of the entire complex including the missing Parker-Vincent excavation. The Middle Bronze age is a critical period in the development of this site, but the areas excavated by Parker, those (south) adjacent to G  excavated by Shukron and the most recent excavations (the circled area) are fundamental elements of the logic of these staged progressions.

The birds eye view, demonstrated by Figure 3 is an entire complex that includes an impassable access corridor rising from lower elevation J-P to the temple complex on high ridge G-H. In area F excavation reached the bedrock and exposed a number of steep bedrock steps, on several of which were potsherds from Middle Bronze Age IIB. (Shukron, Uziel, Szanton 2013).

The descending section of the east-west corridor marked XVIII, at lower elevation P-XXI appears to have been destroyed such that the eastern end (as it approaches P) terminates as a sheer rock face that renders the upper corridor inaccessible. The missing section may have once connected the steep corridor between lower and upper elevation.

We will follow the logical path from C to E to G that a well thought-out plan was implemented to improve the natural karstic elements and combine them into an operational water supply system that became known as Warrens Shaft, (Dan Gill). Although the complex of rooms excavated at G was completed by 2011, no archaeologist report has ever been published, but the temple features of the complex overwhelmingly support its spiritual importance.

Returning to the Rock-cut pool of Figure 1, the MBII channel and Round Chamber appears to have preceded the expansion of the pool to its present day boundaries. The stepped access into the pool and the more humble Round Chamber suggests its original edge elevation may have once been level with its adjacent plateau's north and south (as indicated, by red outlines in Figure 4 below).

Figure 4 Shukron, Uziel, Szandton excavations enhanced and labeled
Looking south over the Round Chamber to tourist walkway sunken into Rock-cut Pool. To the right, boulders               illustrated in green as seen in Figure 4
The expansion of the Round Chamber to quarry Rock-cut pool and the removal of the lower section of corridor G-P would have rendered the plateau (immediately east of P) and cave dwelling K inaccessible from its opposite northern plateau (that supports the remains of MFC). Further, the high ridge of area G would have become inaccessible from any of the lower reaches on the eastern slope of Mount Moriah and the Kidron Valley.  This or any renovation may have occurred at a date later than MBII, perhaps Late Bronze (LB) or even closer to Iron Age (IA). Although Uziel lead research to carbon date construction to the Iron Age 800-900 B.C.E, there remains evidence that progression of construction to completion of the northern end may have occurred in this time.

It would have been convenient to quarry and extract the rock surrounding the Round Chamber to form the Rock-cut Pool in order to construct the massive fortification corridor on the adjacent northern plateau. Was this part of their thinking? The deep chasm of the Rock-cut pool cut access  and the added fortification corridor divided the entire mountain south placing more emphasis on northerly expansion of the city. This is further evidenced by the existence of wall constructs that blocked access along Parker corridor XIX at the point the fortification corridor abutted city walls that were constructed in the Late Bronze or early Iron Age.

Having been slowly established during the Bronze Age on the lower, southern end of the eastern face of Mount Moriah, people, who were now more technically capable were on the move to expand the walls of the city north as the Iron Age was gathering pace. If we accept the hypothesis that this was the pattern by which Jerusalem became more populated then we can understand this atypical development model for a location so prominent in history. Atypical because countless archaeologists who have worked on or studied these excavations coalesce that water protection was the motivation for fortification around the Gihon Spring, but I suggest this was not the case.

The effort to quarry the Rock-cut Pool and construct adjacent fortification corridors that cut the eastern slope from the north was herculean as supported (see above) by Boas-Vedder 2001 and Reich 2011. Regional labor, at subsidized cost would have been imported to the city, but only if the ~900 inhabitants (Geva) of MB Mount Moriah had good reason to inspire such significant development. The quarry is cut deeper on the southern, northern and western edge of the Rock-cut Pool. Storing water was not the reason for the deep cuts because the eastern edge, perhaps as much as ~2m lower dictated the highest water level in the pool.

Given Dan Gill's observation "...that Coming out of the upper tunnel (Tunnel VI) to the eastern slope, a traveler finds himself outside (to the north) of the MFC rather than on a path leading into it...", protecting water does not seem to have been the objective of the MFC construction. At any reasonable MB, LB or IA date, geopolitical objectives must have been strongly aligned to inspire regional powers to support the construction of such a substantial infrastructure push to the north.

In summary we have structural evidence of;

1. a deep cut quarry on 3 sides of the Rock-cut Pool leading to Round Chamber
2. access impasse from rock plateau supporting MFC to plateau of cave dwelling K
3. eastern city wall's or foundations but not western
4. fortification corridor blocking XIX and abutting an eastern city wall north of G
5. misalignment of fortification corridor south of and adjacent to the Gihon Spring water source

On the high ridge at G the stone-cut, beam, oil press is juxtaposed with the undisturbed matzevah and rock frame (see Matzevah image below)that was placed directly on the bedrock at some point after the stone-cut rooms were completed.

A 2013 excavation along XIII west of G unveiled a weight which may have been used for the oil, beam press as depicted

Dating of the rooms carved on the high ridge could be as far back as Early Bronze IV such that the  development chronology on the mountain may resemble the following.

1. Early Bronze I
 – 3300-3050 B.C.E. – sparse, periodic settlement
2. Early Bronze II-III
 – 3050-2030 B.C.E. sparse, prolonged settlement
3. Early Bronze IV/Middle Bronze I
 -2300-2000 B.C.E. - permanent settlement, bedrock chiseling at dwelling K and high ridge
4. Middle Bronze IIA 2000-1750 B.C.E
. – expanded settlement, early use of area G high ridge, expansion of WSS, Gihon tunnels
5. Middle Bronze IIB-C 1750-1550 B.C.E.
 – excavation of Round Chamber and expanded area G features constructed on the high ridge
6. Late Bronze I – 1550-1400 B.C.E.
 – development on east face, commencement of city walls
7. Late Bronze IIA-B 1400-1200 B.C.E.
 – commence construction of city walls, Rock-cut Pool and MFC
8. Iron Age I 1200-1000 B.C.E.
 – completion of MFC, expansion along valley floor,  tower and city walls
9. Iron Age II – 1000 – 586 B.C.E.
 – water system rearrangement, internal city construction, expansion North and eastern outer wall

At some point after the construction of rock-cut rooms at G, perhaps MBI or MBII the matzevah discovered by Shukron would have been constructed on the bedrock at G.

Matzevah at G
An inventory of items located north to south in 4 rock-cut chambers at G (see southwest corner in Figure 4) include;

1. beam, oil press (external east wall of animal pen)
2. small animal pen (room enclosure)
3. altar platform, grain press, liquids channel leading to pit (tunnel exit west)
4. animal ties (thread through rock corners)
5. matzevah (see picture above)
6. grain press, oil press, V markings in bedrock floor (exit tunnel west)

Eli Shukron in the now famous room with V markings  - exit tunnel west in the north west corner of room
The significant rock-cut and matzevah features in the chambers at G indicate, at least MB use as a temple for high volume worship. Its large scale construction on the high ridge overlooking the Kidron Valley once announced its importance. The scant population of Mount Moriah cannot be have motivated such a significant rock-cut construction, therefore it is more likely it's location and cultural importance attracted people from the region that motivated its construction. Given the dominant nature of this early element of the scheme in Figure 3 especially its relationship to the southern end, it is surprising that the Rock-cut Pool and MFC cut the eastern slope, obfuscating access to area G's rock-cut  rooms.

Curiously the next Figure 5 scheme of excavation presents corridor 1,2 and 3. We have discussed corridor 1 previously as the east-west corridor marked XVIII in Figure 3, however corridor 2 terminates at the western deep cut edge of the Rock-cut pool and corridor 3 terminates prematurely into an apparent dead-end. The evidence suggests access to the water below from the temple on the high ridge at G was important. As demand for access was growing additional corridor excavation was undertaken. Nevertheless, these excavations are incomplete and 1,2,3 defined here as corridors may simply follow the bedrock slope to their termination points.

Figure 5 excavation area scheme with G and matzevah as indicated - click to enlarge
Relying on the structural evidence above and stratum data provided in the references used, we must establish credible reasons why;

1. the Round Chamber was quarried to establish the Rock-cut pool
2. lower vital connecting sections of corridor 1 (XVIII) were cut and corridor 2 terminated at the western quarry edge of the Rock-cut pool
3. the MFC adjacent to the Gihon Spring was undertaken.

Therefore, I posit the following chronological hypothesis;

1. That Mount Moriah was settled in accordance with 1-3 of the chronology above during EB.
2. That MB I reasons for permanent settlement began to materialize, but that these were not fundamentally based on demand for water, but on soft-cultural, spiritual demands as evidenced by Geva's population estimates.
3. That cave dwelling K and early features of the temple at G began servicing spiritual demands
4. That the Round Chamber and channel from the Gihon Spring were constructed to service increasing transient demand during MB IIA-B
5. That the matzeva was erected during MB IIB-C
6. That eastern walls, the Rock-cut pool and MFC were constructed toward the end of LB

Finally the reason for Rock-cut pool and MFC were entirely geo-political, they served no practical purpose and were entirely required by regional leaders to cut the eastern slope from the temple on the high ridge at area G.