Leen Ritmeyer

The telltale “step.” Though the stone blocks at the foot of the staircase look like the bottom step, a careful examination of the southernmost stone of the step before its front side was completely covered (seen in this black-and-white photo) revealed a margin and the boss of an ashlar block. What looked like a bottom step was in fact a wall of ashlars. The width of the margin and the protrusion of the boss identified the ashlar—and, therefore, the wall of which it was a part—as pre-Herodian. The recent paving by Muslim authorities, level with the top surface of this lowest step, has obscured the margin and boss on the side of the stone.