Israeli archaeologists find ancient fortification

Israeli archaeologists find ancient fortification (AP)
This image made available by Israel's Antiquities Authority Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009 shows part of a a 3,700-year-old fortification wall discovered in Jerusalem. Archaeologists have discovered a 3,700-year-old wall in the City of David, part of the earliest fortification construction on such a large scale ever found in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday. The 26-foot high wall is believed to have been part of a protected passage used by the Biblical Canaanites that led from a fortress on top of a hill to a spring. Ronny Reich, director of the excavation and a professor of archaeology at the University of Haifa, said the discovery marks the first time such "massive construction" before the time of King Herod was found in the oldest parts of the city. (AP Photo/IAA)

(AP) -- Archaeologists digging in Jerusalem have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wall that is the oldest example of massive fortifications ever found in the city, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday.

The 26-foot-high wall is believed to have been part of a protected passage built by ancient Canaanites from a hilltop fortress to a nearby spring that was the city's only water source and vulnerable to marauders.

The discovery marks the first time have found such massive construction from before the time of Herod, the ruler behind numerous monumental projects in the city 2,000 years ago, and shows that Jerusalem of the Middle Bronze Age had a powerful population capable of complex building projects, said Ronny Reich, director of the excavation and an archaeology professor at the University of Haifa.

The wall dates to the 17th century B.C., when Jerusalem was a small, fortified enclave controlled by the Canaanites, one of the peoples the Bible says lived in the Holy Land before the Hebrew conquest. The kingdom thought to have been ruled from Jerusalem by the biblical King David is usually dated to at least seven centuries later.

A small section of the wall was first discovered in 1909, but diggers have now exposed a 79-foot portion, and Reich believes it stretches much further. Reich said budget constraints related to the global financial crisis put an end to the excavation, at least for now.

"The wall is enormous, and that it survived 3,700 years - this is, even for us, a long time," Reich said. It was remarkable that a of this kind was not dismantled for later building projects, he said.

"When you just stand there and see it, it is amazing," he said.

The wall and other archaeological finds at the site will be opened to the public beginning Thursday, the Antiquities Authority said.

Archaeological research at the site known as the City of David, just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, is caught up in the struggle for control over the city.

The archaeological site, one of the richest in a country full of ancient remains, is in the midst of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.

The City of David digs are funded by Elad, a Jewish settler organization that also buys Palestinian homes and brings Jewish families into the neighborhood. Palestinian and Israeli critics have charged that the archaeology is being used as a political tool to cement Jewish control over parts of Jerusalem that Palestinians want for the capital of a future state.

Israel captured the Arab section of Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Unlike other areas it captured, Israel quickly annexed east and declared the whole city as its capital. In some rounds of failed peace talks, Israel has indicated willingness to cede Arab sections to a Palestinian state, but no agreement was reached.

The current Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken such offers off the table, and no peace negotiations are in progress now.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further

Roman footprint found in ancient city

Citation: Israeli archaeologists find ancient fortification (2009, September 2) retrieved 23 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 02, 2009
I hate to say it, but as much as I enjoy reading these articles -- and with a degree in history, I'm not exactly a beginner -- what exactly is the point of endless, isolated reports of a wall found somewhere, a tool uncovered, use of a plant in crops pushed back 200 years?

This is all on the level of gee-whiz babel. People didn't construct walls 3,500 years ago? Or good walls? Or...what? What does this article really say, except that people 3,500 years ago felt it was necessary to construct a wall. Maybe the wall was cosmetic. Maybe they were wrong, and the wall never stopped any attack. Maybe it was the Bronze Age equivalent of "white elephant".

And even supposing this is an important discovery. How does it compare with the walls of foes? Of other cultures.

In the end, what is the purpose of these "pop culture" newsbites?

Sep 03, 2009
The wall itself may be insignificant today, but it may - in conjunction with ancient texts, biblical or not - provide a major clue to where many more remains of that culture may be discovered.

Although some (and they are few in reality) use such discoveries to reinforce their religious ferver, continuous verification of details from the bible and similar texts helps modern appreciation of how such documents were used to record with impressive accuracy the stories of the different tribes that later spread through Europe, North Africa and Western Asia.

Congratulations to the discoverers. I hope they will permit the whole world to share in the new opportunities that it will open up.

Sep 03, 2009
In Israel, there is an aspect to archaeology that is
absent from the rest of the world. There are politics
involved. From the end of the article:

Palestinian and Israeli critics have charged that the archaeology is being used as a political tool to cement Jewish control over parts of Jerusalem that Palestinians want for the capital of a future state.

Sep 03, 2009
It's a wall, folks. A bunch of broken rock work. I know what walls look like. Old walls, new walls.

What do you know now, after reading the article that you didn't know before? What will you remember, a week from now?

I.e., what's the point of the article.?

Sep 04, 2009
Right, Mandan. These "historical" arguments are among the most biased, bigoted, and unproductive beliefs in all of human culture. That someone has a "right" to take land from someone else...or that one culture is "better" because a *single individual* in that culture made an invention.


And to follow up my seemingly unreasonable "so what" comment about the wall, try reading http://www.archae...rg/news/ for a couple years. After the 6th wall discovered in the last month -- that you never hear about again -- you begin to realize most of these articles are just "woo" cruft.

Sep 04, 2009 article that actually explains something of why this find is important...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more