Thursday, February 8, 2018

Peeling back Jerusalem's most ancient layers...

I set out a theory and proof that ancient occupiers of the sparse hills of Jerusalem, with significant help from their regional allies 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 city’s development.

Bewildering is the absence of any archaeological trace of a Middle Bronze western city wall in the presence of the MFC (East) adjacent to the Gihon Spring. Perhaps even more complex is the scant evidence of a 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 as per common logic, but to serve another 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 of the expanded city. 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 city wall, which has not yet been discovered, may not have existed at that time.

Figure 1 - 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) moving to the eastern slope, a traveler finds himself outside (north) of the MFC rather than on the path leading into it, as one would expect if the corridor had already been built before the Warren Shaft System (WSS). This indicates that parts of the WSS existed and part 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 increases in the city's population and geopolitical changes in the region, this regionally sponsored hill eventually became one of the City-States that ruled in the region. In the face of the prevailing political rivalries from within and without, 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 during these stages. (Dan Gill 2011)

This invokes many questions, particularly related to evidence the Parker-Vincent expedition of 1909 uncovered, much of which 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 private cave dwelling, but for a 1909-1911 photo of Parker and Vincent. This photo exposes [K-21-b] on the Vincent map, a private 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 bronze age. It is barely referenced by Ronny Reich in his recent book Excavating the City of David - Where Jerusalem's History Began. Vincent also discovered pottery and tombs in the vicinity that were dated to 3000 B.C.E. . None of the finds date later than the Early Bronze Age.

I rely on the hypothesis that this initial private 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 discovered 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, Rock-cut Pool(Fig. 1) forms an elevated platform ~3m above the top step that leads (on its eastern end) into the Round Chamber (Fig.1) also marking the lowest part of the expanded 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 important elements missed by the  Parker-Vincent excavation. The Middle Bronze age is a critical period in the development of this site, but the areas missed by Parker-Vincent, those (south) adjacent to G were excavated by Shukron and these most recent excavations (the circled area) are fundamental elements in the logic of these staged progressions.

The birds eye view, demonstrated by Figure 3 is the entire complex that includes the 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 disconnected such that the eastern end (as it approaches P) terminates as a sheer rock face that renders the upper part of the corridor inaccessible. The missing section may have once connected this steep corridor between lower and upper elevation. (see image below)

The impassable, disconnected corridor. Lower-eastern section has been reconstructed to connect P with G
Following the logical path from C to E to G (including via external passage at E) a well thought-out plan was implemented to improve upon natural karstic elements and combine them into an accessible  water supply system that became known as Warrens Shaft, (Dan Gill). Although the complex of rooms excavated at G were completed by 2011, no archaeologist report has ever been published, but the temple features of this complex overwhelmingly support its spiritual importance.

Returning to the Rock-cut pool of Figure 1, the MBII channel and Round Chamber preceded the expansion of the pool to its present day boundaries (Reich attributes this expansion to the Iron Age). The eastern stepped access into the expanded pool and more humble Round Chamber suggests the Chambers original elevation may have once been level with 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, tourist walkway sunken into Rock-cut Pool.
Fallen boulders (right-west) illustrated green in Figure 4
Figure 5 - Indicative depth of original Round Chamber edge (north-east) level with northern adjacent plateau
and entry of MBII Tunnel III
Round chamber entry of Iron Age Tunnel IV (left) and MBII Tunnel III (right)

The expansion of the Round Chamber into the Rock-cut pool and disconnect of the lower section of corridor P-G would have rendered the P plateau and cave dwelling K inaccessible from its opposite northern plateau (that supports the remains of MFC - Fig.5). 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 very Late Bronze (LB) or Iron Age (IA) (Reich). 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 at only 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 MFC on its 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, separating south from north was herculean (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 and undertake such significant development. Note: The Rock-cut pool is cut deeper on the southern, northern and western edge. Storing water was not the reason for these 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. Although Early Bronze developments may have cast the die, 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. disconnected corridor joining P with G
6. 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 or massebah and rock frame (see matzevah image below) that was placed directly on the bedrock at some point after the stone-cut rooms had been 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 including private dwelling K
3. Early Bronze IV/Middle Bronze I
 -2300-2000 B.C.E. - permanent settlement, bedrock chiseling at 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 disconnected P-G 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 may have been 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 (P-G @ 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 matzevah 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 and access to the Bronze Age temple on the high ridge at area G.