Hershel Shanks

Almost obliterated. These large ashlars, now the bottom step of a stairway on the Temple Mount, may offer a crucial clue regarding the position of the First Temple. (This stairway, at the northwestern corner of the Temple Mount platform and with an arched gateway at its top, can be seen just beyond and to the left of the dome in the aerial photograph of the Temple Mount.)

Leen Ritmeyer, co-author of the exhaustive article on Herod’s Temple Mount in the November/December 1989 BAR (“Reconstructing Herod’s Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” BAR 15:06), argues in a forthcoming article that the step at the bottom of the stairway was, in fact, part of the western wall of the original, pre-Herodian, Temple Mount platform. Ritmeyer came to that conclusion in part by examining a black and white photo that shows that the large stones in this step had margins and bosses on the side by which the wall could be identified and dated. The earlier paving abuts the boss, leaving the margin exposed above it. The later paving (upper right in this photo) has been laid over the boss.

That crucial clue can no longer be seen; were it not for the old photograph, this important piece of evidence would have escaped notice. Proponents of a systematic archaeological survey of the Temple Mount point to examples such as this to prove their point.