Jerusalem is a paradise for those who dig archaeology. Our unearthing ancient Jerusalem private tour will start in Mt. of Olives. In fact, this is an excellent point for a bird’s eye view of Jerusalem’s topography and for a better understanding of how it had developed through the ages. The first stop is Mt. Of Olives Cemetery which till this day functions as the city’s Necropolis. Actually, we will see from up close tombs dated to the 2nd century and discuss the different burial practices in each period.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: The City of David
In the City of David, we will go in the footsteps of those great archaeologists that excavated the ancient tel. For example A.C Dickie and Fredrick J. Bliss excavated on behalf of the P.E.F. In fact, the two excavators directed their activities onto Mt. Zion, the Tyropoeon Valley, and the City of David. They made some important discoveries among which should be mentioned: city walls of the Second Temple period. The main street of the city, paved in stone, with the main drain under it. The Siloam Church and parts of the Byzantine Pool of Siloam.
Fredrick Jones Bliss arrived some 30 years after the groundbreaking work of Charles Warren in Jerusalem. The P.E.F had decided to renew its activity in the city primarily not to lag behind the work of German scholars such as Conrad Schick and Hermann Guthe. After Conrad Shick discovered the famous Siloam Inscription, he made quite a name for himself.
Bliss was among the firsts to place the City of David (Jebus) on Jerusalem’s southeastern hill. Even though most scholars at that time placed it on the western hill. This demonstrates in the late 19th century, the locations of ancient Jerusalem were no yet clear. He points to an important clue for this: the fact that the spring is located to the east of the city.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: Davidson Archaeological Park
After spending a few hours in the City of David, feasting our eyes at the archaeological treasures. Now we shall continue our private guided tour to another archaeological wonderland. Certainly, this park is my favorite archaeological spot in Jerusalem. Truly, Where else you can see the amazing work of Ronny Reich from Haifa University. I wish I could have been there myself, unearthing the original Herodian Western Wall that was buried for centuries underground. We will also stall next to the famous Robinson Arch, another important remnant from the times of the 2nd Temple.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter
After the Jordanian Legion took over the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948. The first thing they did was to flatten down to the ground the Jewish Quarter. I guess they never imagined the Israelis would ever seize the Old City back again. But they were wrong, and in 1967, after the Six Days War the State of Israel took over the entire city of Jerusalem.
The reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 sparked a dramatic surge of archaeological activity in the ancient city. A widespread investigation of the ancient remains was initiated on a scale that overshadowed all such previous work. In 1969, Nahman Avigad was invited to undertake the excavations of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, devastated by the 1948 war and its aftermath. His finds were the first physical evidence or archaeological evidence for the destruction described in the work of Josephus Flavius. The dig also unearthed lavish villas belonging to the Herodian upper classes. Now open for the public to visit, known as the Herodian Mansions.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: The Roman-Byzantine Cardo
Equally important, unique discoveries by Avigad in the Jewish Quarter give a new perspective on the development and urban character of Byzantine Jerusalem. In the first place, he found remains of the southern portion of the main north to the south street of Jerusalem, the Cardo. Including its two colonnades as depicted in the Madaba Mosaic Map – that are visible today. Accordingly, the archaeological evidence shows this southern portion of the Cardo to have been constructed in the mid-6th-century C.E, during Justinian’s reign. In order to connect in a straight line, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with the new Nea Church was excavated in the Jewish Quarter by Avigad.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: The Christian Quarter
Now let’s move along with our private tour to the Christian Quarter. First on our way will be the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. To begin with, From the Iron Age, up to the Roman Period, this site was a quarry. Blocks of Meleke limestone were extracted from the quarry to build ancient Jerusalem. So we’ll explore that in the underground chambers of the Church. Later, Helena, the Empress builds the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Once we will stand in front of the Church facade, you’ll immediately bear witness to the most impressive facade in the Old City, dated to the Crusader Period. Inside, some original Mosaics dated from the 12th century are waiting for us to explore.
We’ll enter inside and explore the excavations conducted by Virgilio Canio Corbo and others since the 1960s in the Church. Among other things they were able to uncover was the original Constantinian church. An interesting find that we’ll talk about is the famous Jerusalem Ship Drawing. Next on our private archaeological tour of Jerusalem is the ruins of a Roman Temple, that Emperor Hadrian in the 2nd century dedicates probably to Venus. After that, we walk around and I’ll show you some of the Original Roman Floor seen today in the Christian Quarter.
Unearthing Ancient Jerusalem: Exploring Temple Mt.
Our private guided tour continues with exploring what is a real gem in the Old City. Alongside the Church of Holy Sepulchre, Temple Mt is among the Must-See Sites in Jerusalem. For example, we will visit the Dome of the Rock that became a church called Templum Domini. And then the Al-Aqsa Mosque, renamed by the Crusaders Templum Salomonis; which was first a royal palace and then the headquarters of the Knights Templar. And the Dome of the Chain became the Chapel of St. James.
We would explore the enormous Herodian esplanade that was built originally to support the 2nd Temple. We get a closer look at one-of-a-kind structures that are still standing since the Late Muslim Period. For example, Minbar al-Sayf Summer Pulpit dated to the Mamluk Period. Also, Al-Kas Ablution Fountain was built by the Mamluk Amir, Tankiz. Among other things we will see, the ancient Qayt bay Sebil (fountain), Minaret of the Tribes, one out of the Four Minarets of the Haram al-Sharif dated to the Mamluk Period.