Ancient Wall Discovered In Jerusalem
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Usually, when we hear someone talk about a wall in Jerusalem, it's either one that Jews pray at or one that Palestinians protest against. So, here is a story about a different wall altogether. And while it's not completely devoid of political controversy, it predates all current claimants to the Holy City. It dates back to the ancient Canaanites. Ronny Reich is a professor of archeology at the University of Haifa, and he joins us from Jerusalem to talk about this discovery.
Can you tell us first, Professor Reich, where is the wall and how old is it actually?
Professor RONNY REICH (Professor of Archeology, University of Haifa): Well, the wall is in what we call in the hill that is called the City of David, the hill just south of the Temple Mount. And that's the hill where, actually, the life of Jerusalem started. It is very close to the spring of water identified with the Biblical Gihon. That's the only spring of water in the area. And that's the reason why life started there and not on any other particular hill in the country around.
SIEGEL: Now, how do you know that the wall is that old?
Prof. REICH: Well, for this, I'm an archeologist. This is done by the pottery shards, which are found connected or related. And this is what was found in large amounts next to these walls.
SIEGEL: Now, what seems so remarkable about the wall is the size of the blocks that make up this wall. How big are they?
Prof. REICH: Well, first of all, these are rough boulders, not nicely cut stones. They were just huge boulders dislodged in the quarry. I would estimate the larger ones to be one, two, three tons even, metric tons. Since the wall is also very high, at least part of it reaches eight meters. This is about 24 feet high. You can imagine what it means just to lift such a stone to such a height. It's remarkable.
SIEGEL: Can you theorize how people could have built a wall out of such enormously heavy materials?
Prof. REICH: Yes. You need power, of course, manpower or the power of animals of burden, like oxen, et cetera. But what is important in such big blocks is that one has to know how to organize the work; how to bring 50 men, a hundred men, 200 men or whatever is required to pull ropes at the same moment. Not even - a second would be a little bit too long just to orchestrate the work. For example, several centuries later in the Iron Age, people didn't know how to do it and all the walls, even city walls, are made of small stones.
SIEGEL: Now, as I said, the dig at the City of David is not completely without political controversy. The dig is funded, I gather, by Elad, which is an organization identified with Jewish settlers; an organization that buys Palestinian homes and brings Jewish families into the neighborhood. There are critics, both Palestinian, certainly, and also even Israeli who've charged that archeology is being used here as a political tool. Is there any political content to this? Does it, in any way, fortify Israel's claim to the City of David, as opposed to anyone else's claim to it?
Prof. REICH: Well, look, I'm a scientist. I'm an archeologist. I'm happy with whatever I find. I have to, let's say, investigate and publish a proper report, which I'm doing even if it's Islamic or Christian or Jewish, whatever it comes up in accordance with the Israeli law of antiquities.
SIEGEL: Well, Professor Reich, thank you very much for talking with us today.
Prof. REICH: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: That's Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and also the lead archeologist on the dig at the City of David in Jerusalem, where they've discovered a gigantic old wall.
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