Richard Nowitz

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In the last quarter of the first century B.C., Herod the Great built the Second Temple, with porticoes, courts and a vast trapezoidal esplanade. Supporting the entire complex were four immense retaining walls. Here we see the full extent of the western wall that is not still buried or hidden by other structures. Large portions of this wall are Herod’s original construction. Today, a section of this Herodian wall—to the left of the ramp—is one of Judahm’s holiest places of prayer, a reminder of the Temple destroyed 2,000 years ago. Above this wall, on the great platform where the Temple once stood, rises the golden-domed seventh-century “Mosque of Omar.”

The first-century historian Flavius Josephus reported that conquering Romans burned all of Jerusalem and razed its walls to the ground in 70 A.D. But, in fact, archaeologists have discovered that large sections of the Temple Mount’s enormous retaining walls still thrust up from bedrock, in some places to heights of 65 feet. (According to Ben-Dov, field director of the Temple Mount excavations, the highest walls of the Temple Mount originally rose 165 feet!)

Almost two decades of archaeological excavations by Professor Benjamin Mazar and Ben-Dov have uncovered numerous architectural features of the Temple Mount and of the structures outside the walls, filling in substantial gaps in the Jewish, Moslem and Christian history of this holy city.

To identify some of the Herodian features seen here, refer to the drawing.