Monday, June 30, 2014

City of David, Gihon Spring and Archaeological Silence

Seven years of silence have descended - The Israel Antiquities Authority's (IAA) silence is deafening, especially given the important information archaeological discoveries can shed on mysteries that have been buried for thousands of years. Although the IAA may argue ‘no intent to conceal’, their procrastination for so many years denies the public the ability to assess evidence and determine meaning.

I have been privy to two essential pieces of information at the City of David that I consider important and perhaps conclusive. The only report about the High Ridge at the Gihon Spring Excavation was a public challenge issued by the City of David to guess the meaning behind

strange shapes discovered in the bedrock floor. But, the much more telling artifact, which I claim to be the actual monument Jacob anointed (Genesis 28:22) and other important features have never been officially disclosed.

Recently I was invited to climb from the Upper Gihon Pool to the High Ridge above it. On the way I was invited to inspect the mezzanine area, where an elevated cave dwelling hewn out of the bedrock is located. This hewn house, between the Upper Gihon Pool and High Ridge dates back to Early Bronze Age II and has never been publicly reported. This was significant for me, because it validates the chronological construct I write about in my thesis on Jerusalem’s Origin. The following image highlights some of the main features.

Click to enlarge

These bedrock features are the oldest at the City of David and in Jerusalem, each imbued by very significant constructions. Although pottery shards and other incidental items are primarily absent from the times in which these structures were developed, the structures themselves are pieces of the chronological puzzle that cannot simply be ignored in the hope that some better evidence will come along. The very nature of archaeological interpretation must adapt to consider the entire construct of this important center of the City of David.

Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein, Ido Koch and Oded Lipschits reported their theories on the absence of evidence from the Iron Age periods at the City of David. They argue for a more northerly occupation of Jerusalem, which followed the location of the temple at the top of the “Mound on the Mount”. I agree with the logic of their theories although I believe that earlier occupation on the southern slopes was directly on the bedrock, which has denied archaeologists the sedimentary layers that would normally retain evidence. Eilat Mazars discovery of the Palace of King David was also a movement northward from the area around the Gihon Spring, which I consider to be the southernmost origin of Jerusalem. Accordingly, she (following Macalister and Duncan) proposed that the Middle Bronze city was limited to the southern part of the City of David. 

My interest and protest centers on the much earlier Bronze age period. ~3000-2000 BCE through to the Middle Bronze Age ~1500 BCE at and around the Gihon. Very few archaeologists have addressed the significant evidence at this enormously productive, yet under-reported excavation. I have devoted a lot of time effort and resource to this project because I believe it to be the compelling source that motivated and inspired Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and ultimately King David to occupy and capture Jerusalem.

I didn’t need more convincing because the features of the High Ridge were sufficient, but when I saw the hewn rock house my jaw dropped as I realized it dated permanent occupation, below the High Ridge to the earlier part of the Bronze Age. This would mark the time of Biblical Shem or Malchitzedek, the Righteous King, the son of Noah who was granted this land by his father. Was this actually the house of Shem, was this the kingdom of Salem (Gen. 14:18)?

The spectacularly hewn rock house comprises a major development for its time. Only someone with the power to command the dedicated resources could have commissioned such a significant work. Its not the sort of house you or I may choose to live in and its not palatial by any means, but it is a permanent family residence that appears to be comfortable and well protected from potentially hostile surroundings.

As Israel Finkelstein, Ido Koch and Oded Lipschits report, occupation in the later periods appears to be directed north away from the central ridge of The City of David and bedrock living may have obfuscated much evidence. But, there is no doubt that the pooled water of the Gihon, the hewn cave dwelling, the ziggurat like ascending walls, the rooms for worship on the High Ridge and the monument or matsevah (of Jacob) make this an extraordinary area that deserves the attention and interpretation of Israel’s leading archaeologists.

I encourage the IAA to say more about these special features than the usual technically descriptive statements archaeologists are trained to report about each discovery. I would like to hear their theories on the relevance and significance of the combined features located in this unique area of Jerusalem.