Leen Ritmeyer

Building the wall: Building Herod’s Temple Mount wall involved several steps, as illustrated in this drawing. First the line of the wall was laid out by markers (1). Then the construction site was cleared down to bedrock (2). Next the bedrock itself had to be cut and leveled before the ashlars could be put into place (3). Oxen hauled the ashlars from the quarry on rollers (4) for a mile or so down to the construction site, which was 125 feet lower than the quarries north of the Temple Mount. A crane powered by a treadmill lowered the blocks into place (5), and once the courses had been laid, workers chiseled off the projections (6). In a few cases, a projection was not chiseled off for some reason (see photograph), thus providing archaeologists with excellent evidence of the construction process.

Herod’s builders solved the problem of how to hoist huge ashlars onto a rising wall. They worked from inside the wall. At the completion of each course of ashlars, the area within the retaining wall was filled in up to the top of the latest course, with cartloads of “hard core” (7), which consists of broken stones and rubble such as quarry chips. Thus a new working level for the next course was created that allowed the stones to be moved into place with minimal lifting by the crane.