Courtesy Margreet Steiner

A royal capital? The sophisticated craftsmanship and massive size (4 feet long by 2 feet high by 1.5 feet thick) of this limestone capital indicate that it once adorned an impressive building. Discovered by Kathleen Kenyon along with some ashlars (finely hewn building stones), the capital and other architectural remains are interpreted by Steiner as evidence that there were public buildings in Jerusalem in the tenth-ninth century B.C.E. But the absence of any excavated residences leads Steiner to conclude that Jerusalem was not a capital city at this time but merely a public administrative center.

Further, Steiner notes that the red-slipped pottery used to date remains to the early tenth century B.C.E., and thus to the time of King David, is rarely found in the City of David, which may indicate that these buildings date to the late tenth or ninth century B.C.E., after the reigns of David and Solomon.

According to Jane Cahill, however, the capital was found among debris from the Babylonian destruction of 586 B.C.E. and may have been in secondary use. Its presence, Cahill asserts, indicates neither the character nor date of the surrounding structures.

The carved capital is called proto-Ionic (or proto-aeolic) because its design of two fluted volutes later became common in Greek architecture.