Previously, we have discussed the significance of the Temple Mount in Jewish culture, with this history and reconstruction of both the First and Second Jewish Temple. And now, a parcel of history has resurfaced to be linked with the millennia-old cultural legacy – in the form of a magnificent walkway that was probably used by ancient pilgrims as they made their way to the Temple Mount. Discovered within the perimeters of the City of David, in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Walls National Park), the massive street was possibly over 600 m (approx 1968 ft) in length and 8 m (27 ft) in width.
As for the historicity of the walkway – that stretched from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount, the archaeologists at Israel Antiquities Authority fortuitously came across over 100 coins that were located beneath a layer of the paving stones. The latest of these specimens were found to date from circa 17 – 31 AD. The timeframe suggests that the walkway was probably commissioned by Pontius Pilate, the fifth Roman governor of Judea and the man known for passing the order of execution of Jesus Christ. Pertaining to the latter, incredibly enough, Biblical references point to how Jesus cured a man’s blindness by asking him to wash his face in the Pool of Siloam during the walkway’s construction.
Coming to the archaeological side of affairs, a 220 m (720 ft) section of the street was revealed by the researchers after six years of extensive digging and excavations. Moreover, it should be noted that part of the walkway was originally discovered way back in 1894 by a team of British archaeologists. Dr. Donald T. Ariel, an archaeologist and coin expert with the Israel Antiquities Authority and one of the authors of the recent study, said –
Dating using coins is very exact. As some coins have the year in which they were minted on them, what that means is that if a coin with the date 30 CE on it is found beneath the street, the street had to be built in the same year or after that coin had been minted, so any time after 30 CE. However, our study goes further, because statistically, coins minted some 10 years later are the most common coins in Jerusalem, so not having them beneath the street means the street was built before their appearance, in other words only in the time of Pilate.
The sheer scope of the street, as demonstrated by its aforementioned dimensions, was also mirrored by the quantitative aspect of building materials. To that end, the researchers have estimated that around 10,000 tons of quarried limestone rock were used in its construction, thus alluding to the engineering prowess of the Romans and the locals. Furthermore, the walkway did convey a sense of religious significance because it connected the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount. Dr. Joe Uziel and Moran Hagbi, archaeologists at the Israel Antiquities Authority and co-authors of the study, said –
If this was a simple walkway connecting point A to point B, there would be no need to build such a grand street. At its minimum, it is 8 meters wide. This, coupled with its finely carved stone and ornate ‘furnishings’ like a stepped podium along the street, all indicate that this was a special street.
Author Nahshon Szanton further added –
Part of it may have been to appease the residents of Jerusalem, part of it may have been about the way Jerusalem would fit in the Roman world, and part of it may have been to aggrandize his name through major building projects. We can’t know for sure—although all these reasons do find support in the historical documents, and it is likely that it was some combination of the three.
The study was originally published in the Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University.