A Stonemason’s Chisel from the Second Temple

Ancient chisel used to build the temple


Image: A stonemason’s chisel

Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists associated with the Israel Antiquities Authority found a stonemason’s chisel which is believed to have been used by the workers who built the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

According to an article published in Haaretz, Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich, the archaeologists working for the Israel Antiquities Authority, the chisel was found last summer while archaeologists were digging at the lower base of the Western Wall.

The Israel Antiquities Authority chose not to release the information about this finding until a study of the chisel could be concluded and its authenticity could be verified.

Below is an excerpt from the article published in Haaretz:

Shukron has been digging in the area of the City of David and the Western Wall together with Prof. Ronny Reich for the past 19 years, until a few months ago. In recent years Shukron had been excavating inside a tunnel found to lead from the City of David into the Old City, passing beneath its massive stone wall and ending at the Western Wall.

The Second Temple had been erected on the site now known as Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Western Wall was built as a support wall, extending the area so tens of thousands of worshippers could come on pilgrimages at the same time.

In effect the tunnel is part of a drainage system built beneath the main road during the Second Temple period. At its end within the city, the tunnel is right by Temple Mount and the lower area of the Western Wall, which had been a wall of the Second Temple.

The chisel is just one of many archaeological treasures that Shukron and Reich reported from the area. Other finds include a Roman sword, cooking vessels from the period of the Great Rebellion, a gold bell that they think may have adorned the robe of the High Priest, and a ceramic seal apparently used to confirm the suitability of sacrifices brought to the Temple.

According to the article, archaeologists also found several coins beneath the wall. After evaluating the coins, Shukron and Reich said that the coins provide valuable information for dating the construction of the Wall.

Most scholars believe that the Western Wall was one of the many building projects Herod the Great initiated during his reign. Among these projects was the Temple in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, and the fort at Masada.

However, based on the dates of the coins found under the Western Wall, Shukron and Reich believe that the Western Wall was not built by Herod. The dates of the coins indicate that the Western Wall was built after Herod’s reign, probably by one of his heirs.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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3 Responses to A Stonemason’s Chisel from the Second Temple

  1. Pingback: links: this went thru my mind | preachersmith

  2. Rose Stauros says:

    According to Josephus, Herod rebuilt the Temple, and part of it fell down, and was later raised in the days of Nero.

    Antiq. XV, 11, 3
    So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length a hundred cubits, and in height twenty additional cubits, which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations fell down; and this part it was that we resolved to raise again in the days of Nero.


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