Richard Nowitz

On the platform where the Temple of Solomon and the Temple of Herod once stood, two mosques now dominate a 1,300,000-square-foot plaza, their gold and silver domes reflecting the bright Jerusalem sun. Around the plaza’s massive retaining walls, archaeologists have uncovered 25 layers of civilzation.

Above the excavations, at the far left of the photo, is a segment of the western wall of the Temple Mount exposed before the excavations began. Formerly called the Wailing Wall and today simply the Western Wall, this remnant of Herodian construction is holy to Jews as a reminder of their Temple, destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. At the corner where the south and west walls of the Temple Mount meet, bottom center, a tower once stood; at its pinnacle a trumpeter would sound the blast announcing the Sabbath (see artist’s reconstruction).

At the bottom right of this photo we see about half of the vast excavations south of the Temple Mount, up to the Al Aqsa mosque, the silver dome at right center. The excavations continue to the east of Al Aqsa.