Michael D. McKinney/Centuryone

This way to the Essene quarter. Archaeologist Bargil Pixner (right) and American archaeologist James Strange (left) stand before the massive sills of an ancient gate that led through the Jerusalem city wall onto Mount Zion. Pixner points to a stone flanking the lowest threshold, which predates the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and may have been built as early as 30 B.C.E. According to Pixner, this limestone base supported the arch of a gate built for an Essene community living just inside the city wall (see first map).

Directly on top of the Essene sill, two crude limestone slabs, plastered together with cement, form the sill of the second gate on the same site. This gate dates to the early third through fourth century C.E., when Jerusalem came under Roman control. The Romans banned Jews from the city, which was rebuilt on a smaller scale and renamed Aelia Capitolina. The southern part of Mount Zion, outside the Roman city, became home to a Jewish Christian community that built a makeshift wall around the neighborhood (see second map). The second sill formed the threshold of a gate in this wall, known as the “Wall of Zion.”

Pixner is resting his hand on the top sill, which dates from the middle to late Byzantine period (c. 444–636 C.E.), when the Jerusalem city wall once again encircled Mount Zion (see second map).