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ARCHAEOLOGY > King Herod built only part of temple walls

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse

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Israeli archaeologists have uncovered ancient coins near the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City which challenge the assumption that all of the walls of the Second Temple were built by King Herod.

The coins, which date back to around 15 AD, were found inside a Jewish ritual bath located at the foot of the western wall of the Second Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, archaeologists said on Wednesday.

Until now, archaeologists and scholars have largely accepted that the Roman king was responsible for construction of both the Temple and its walls in a project completed by the time of his death in around 4 BC.

During the dig, archaeologists found the ritual bath, or mikveh, had been filled in to make way for construction of the wall, part of which was built directly on top of it, with the coins found in the half which was not covered by the foundation stones.

“Until today, accepted wisdom said that all the walls were built by Herod,” said Eli Shakoun, an archaeologist from the Israel Antiquities Authority who led the dig with Professor Ronny Reich of Haifa University.

“When we found these coins which were dated about 20 years after Herod’s death, we understood that it couldn’t have been him who built this part of the wall,” he explained.

The find also showed that construction of the walls had taken at least 40 years, which is longer than previously thought, Reich said.

“Herod started building in the 18th year of his reign, which was around 22 BC, and here we have coins (underneath the wall) which date back to at least 15 AD, which show it was at least 40 years,” he said

November/24/2011

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