In salvage excavations the Antiquities Authority conducted in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem, an ancient quarry was revealed that extended across an area of at least 5 dunams. The excavation was carried out as part of a project initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality for the purpose of building an elementary school for the children of the neighborhood. From this quarry huge stones were extracted that were used in the national construction projects in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This construction most likely also included the walls of the Temple Mount and other monumental buildings. Upon the discovery of the antiquities Mayor Rabbi Uri Lupolianski instructed that the work be halted and allocated 350,000 NIS for salvage excavations.
The uniqueness of the quarry lies in the enormous size of the stones that are up to 8 meters long, similar to the stones that were used in the lower parts of the Temple Mount compound.
In order to construct the national public buildings the rulers of the city in the Second Temple period selected excellent quality stone that originates in the hard layers of limestone, referred to in Arabic as malakeh (from the word malkhut=royalty) owing to its beauty and quality. This is the first time in which a quarry of this kind has been exposed in all its intensity and that can be connected to the tremendous building projects in Jerusalem of the Second Temple period. The elevation of the ridge (c. 80 meters about that of the Temple Mount) and its proximity to the main road that reached Jerusalem from the north, are what determined the location of this central quarry. From here they could drag the huge stones with the help of oxen along the gentle slope to the building sites in Jerusalem. The use of these enormous stones, while setting them on top of the bedrock during the construction of the Temple Mount compound, is what maintained the stability of the structure over thousands of years, without requiring the use of plaster or cement.
According to Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, the quarrying of each stone block was done in stages: first deep narrow channels were hewn around all four sides of the block thereby isolating it from the surrounding bedrock surface. Afterwards, using a hammer, the stonecutters inserted a row of cleaving stakes in the bottom part of the block until a fissure was created and the stone was detached. For the first time a complete cleaving stake, which had been forgotten by the ancient quarrymen, was found at the site.
Among the other finds that were discovered in the excavation: coins and fragments of pottery vessels dating to the first century CE which confirm the quarry operated at the height of construction projects during the Second Temple period.
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