City of David

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Digital reconstruction of the Biblical City of David in the period of Herod's Temple, Holyland Model of Jerusalem. The southern wall of the Temple Mount appears at top.
Inside the Siloam tunnel 2010

City of David (Hebrew: (Hebrew: עיר דוד‎, Ir David; Arabic: Arabic: مدينة داوود‎‎, Madīna Dāwūd) is the archaeological site of ancient Jerusalem of the pre-Babylonian exile era[1][2][3] It is located beneath the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh (Arabic: وادي حلوه), and beneath the southern city walls of old Jerusalem. The remains in the site include a water tunnel and a pool of water reservoir built by king Hezekiah and the Acra,[4] a fortress built by Antiochus Epiphanes to subdue ancient Jerusalem. Also, a Bullae with the names of Yehucal son of Shelemiah and Gedaliah son of Pashhur, two officials mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, have been found in the site. Some archeologists believe that a Large Stone Structure, tentatively dated to the tenth to ninth century BC, found in the site may be the palace of king David.[5]

The area is one of the most intensively excavated sites in the wider region.[6] The debate within biblical archaeology over the location of the City of David began in the late 19th century with the excavations of Charles Warren and Hermann Guthe on the hill southeast of the Old City.[7][8] The 1909-11 work of Louis-Hugues Vincent and Montagu Brownlow Parker identified the earliest known human remains in the Jerusalem region,[9][10] suggesting the area was an ancient core of settlement in Jerusalem dating back to the Bronze Age.[11][12] It is on a narrow ridge running south from the Temple Mount in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem.[13][14] It is thought to have been a walled city in the Bronze Age which enjoyed the defensive advantages of its position by the Tyropoeon Valley to its west, by the Hinnom valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east. In the ancient pre-Israelite period, the area is thought to have been separated from the site of the later Temple Mount by the Ophel, an uninhabited area which became the seat of government under Israelite rule.[15] During the reign of Hezekiah, the walls of the city were expanded westward, enclosing a previously unwalled suburb in the area now known as the Old City of Jerusalem, west of the Temple Mount.

The area is highly controversial in the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.[16][17][18] The City is located around and below Silwan, a predominantly Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem that has some Jewish residents. Within the City of David itself, Jews now form the majority of the population.

In October 2014, Uri Ariel, former Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, caused controversy when he suggested he was "considering taking up residence" in the area.[19]


Part of the Large Stone Structure identified by some archaeologists with the remains of King David's Palace

Archaeological exploration of the area began in the nineteenth century, with excavations undertaken by Charles Warren in 1867. Warren was sent by the Palestine Exploration Fund. Warren conducted an excavation of the area south of the Temple Mount and recovered a massive fortification. The finding led him to conduct more excavations at the area south to mount temple. There he revealed a shaft coming from underground to the surface. He suggested that the shaft was used to supply water to the city. Today this shaft is called after his discoverer "warren's shaft". Warren believed that he is excavating the old biblical city of David. There have been numerous excavations since and several digs are currently underway. Complete lists of the Ottoman Era digs [4], British Mandate era digs [5], Jordanian era digs [6] and of the early Israeli era digs [7] are available at the website of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The area includes several sites of archaeological interest, notably the Siloam tunnel (a water supply system, where the Siloam inscription was found), Warren's shaft (an earlier structure, postulated by some to have been a water supply system), and the Pool of Siloam (the presently extant Byzantine-era pool, and the recently discovered Second Temple-period pool). All of these water supply systems drew their water from the Gihon Spring which lies on the Ophel's eastern slope, and is generally considered the reason that the City was built at this location.[15]

The site of the Gihon Spring and Pool of Siloam are incorporated in an archaeological park open to the public. Visitors can wade through the Siloam Tunnel, through which the waters of the ancient spring still flow.[20]

Chalcolithic (4500–3500 BCE)

Chalcolithic remains include bits of pottery found in clefts in the bedrock by Macalister and Duncan.[21] The expedition also discovered a number of artifices cut into the bedrock. These included places where the rock had been smoothed and others where it had been cut to form flow channels. There were also several groups of small basins, sometimes called cup marks, cut into the bedrock. These are assumed to have been used for some form of agricultural processing. Macalister and Duncan speculated that they were used in olive oil processing.[21] Edwin C. M. van den Brink, who notes that similar carved basins have been found at Beit Shemesh and near Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut speculates that they may have been created by repeated grinding and crushing activity, such as the grinding of grain or the crushing of olives.[22] Eilat Mazar speculates that they were used to collect rainwater.[15]

Early Bronze Age (3500–2350 BCE)

Pieces of pottery have been found.

Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 BCE)

Middle Bronze Age Jerusalem is mentioned several times in Egyptian texts from the 19th-18th centuries BCE.[23] A town called Shalem is mentioned in this era in the biblical story of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20), which may have been Jerusalem. In this period the city is sufficiently large and powerful to construct a massive stone wall to defend its water supply, the Gihon Spring, by protecting the vulnerable passage from the top of the hill to the spring tower below.[24]

Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 BCE)

Pottery and bronze arrowheads dating form this period have been found.[15]

In 2010, a fragment of a clay tablet dating from the 14th century BCE was uncovered, making it the oldest written document yet uncovered in Jerusalem. It is dated by the writing it bears, in an ancient Akkadian cuneiform script. The text was deciphered by graduate student Takayoshi Oshima working under professor Wayne Horowitz. According to Horowitz, the quality of the writing indicates that this was a royal inscription, apparently a letter from the king of Jerusalem to the pharaoh in Egypt.[25] Professor Christopher Rollston points out that there is no mention of any personal names or titles and no place names in the document. He notes that the quality of the script is good but that this does not show that it is "international royal correspondence." He also suggests that caution should be taken before positing a definite date as it is not a stratified find, having been discovered after excavation in a 'wet sieving' process.[26]

Iron Age I (1200–980/70 BCE)

A city wall.

The Bible says Jerusalem was Jebusite city, which was captured by troops under King David who, as described in the Bible, captured the city not only by breaching the walls,[27] but also by climbing upwards through the ancient water system at the Gihon Spring.[28] The supposition is that the Israelites continued to use the intact Jebusite walls and extended the city northward, under king Solomon, to include the Temple Mount.[29]

Iron Age IIa (1000–900 BCE)

Stepped Stone Structure (Millo).
Sign near the southern end of the Siloam tunnel, where the Siloam inscription was found.

The period of the tenth and ninth centuries BCE has been the subject of an intense scholarly dispute, as well as of ongoing archaeological investigations.[30]

The 2005 discovery by archaeologist Eilat Mazar of a Large Stone Structure, which she dated to the tenth century BCE, would be evidence of buildings in Jerusalem of a size appropriate to the capital of a centralized kingdom at that time. Others, most notably Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, argue that the structure could, for the most part, be from the much later Hasmonean period.[31] However, new evidence continues to emerge from the dig. Mazar's date is supported by 10th century imported luxury goods found within the large Stone Structure, including two Phoenician-style ivory inlays once attached to iron objects, comparable objects found in a Phoenician tomb at Achziv suggest that they may have decorated a sword handle.[32] A quantity of luxury round, carinated bowls with red slip and hand burnishing support both the tenth century date and a sophisticated, urban lifestyle.[33] A bone has been radiocarbon dated by Elisabetta Boaretto at the Weizmann Institute, showing a probable date between 1050 and 780 BCE.[33] A large section of a "delicate and elegant" black-on-red jug, also found in the structure, is of a kind dated to the second half of the tenth century BCE.[34][35]

In 2010 Mazar announced the discovery of what she believed to be a 10th-century BCE city wall. According to Mazar, ""It's the most significant construction we have from First Temple days in Israel," and "It means that at that time, the 10th century, in Jerusalem there was a regime capable of carrying out such construction." The 10th century BCE is considered the century during which the Bible describes the reign of King Solomon. Aren Maeir, an archeology professor at Bar Ilan University, said he has yet to see evidence that the fortifications are as old as Mazar claims.[36]

In 2015 a 10-year-old Russian volunteer at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount Sifting Project found a seal from the time of King David in the 10th century BCE.[37]


The elaborate rock-cut tombs of the Israelite period, dating from the 9th to the 7th centuries BCE are found on the ridge on the far side of the Kidron Valley in and under the Arab village of Silwan.[38] These are large, elaborate tombs of finely-cut stone, such as could only have been built by the highest-ranking members of a wealthy society. According to David Ussishkin, "here ministers, nobles and notables of the kingdom of Judah were buried."[38]

The architecture of the tombs and the manner of burial is different "from anything known from contemporary Palestine. Elements such as entrances located high above the surface, gabled ceilings, straight ceilings with a cornice,13 trough-shaped resting-places with pillows, above-ground tombs, and inscriptions engraved on the facade appear only here."[38] However, the stone benches were carved with headrests in a style borrowed from Egyptian Hathor wig.[39] Ussishkin believes that the architectural similarity to building styles of the Phoenician cities validates the biblical description of Phoenician influence on the Israelite kingdoms, but speculates that some or all of the tombs may have been built by Phoenician aristocrats living in Jerusalem.[38]

Although only three partial inscriptions survive, the paleography makes the dating certain [38] and they suffice for most archaeologists to identify one tomb with the Biblical Shebna, steward and treasurer of King Hezekiah.[40]

Iron Age IIIb (8th century – 586 BCE)

This is the period that corresponds to the biblical Kings Hezekiah through Josiah and the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II.

King Hezekiah secured the city's water supply against siege by digging the Siloam Tunnel through bedrock and covering over all signs of the Gihon Spring and the fortifications that had surrounded it in earlier periods. He built the Pool of Siloam as a water reservoir. Hezekiah then surrounded the new reservoir and the city's burgeoning western suburbs with a new city wall.[41][42]

Bullae with the names of Yehucal son of Shelemiah and Gedaliah son of Pashhur, two officials mentioned in the Book of Jeremiah, have been found.

Babylonian and Persian periods (586–322 BCE)

Two bullae in the neo-Babylonian style, one showing a priest standing beside an altar to the gods Marduk and Nabu.[43] A polished, black, stone Scaraboid seal showing a "Babylonian cultic scene" of two bearded men standing on each side of an altar dedicated to the Babylonian moon god Sin. The scaraboid is understood to have been produced in Babylonia, with space left below that altar for a personal name. In that space are Hebrew letters that Peter van der Veen has read as the name Shelomit.[44]

Hasmonean and Herodian periods (167 BCE – 70 CE)

Major archaeological finds include the Pool of Siloam, the Jerusalem pilgrim road, the palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene and the Jerusalem Water Channel. Active Roman-era excavations are also underway at the Givati Parking Lot dig site.[45]

Byzantine and early Islamic Periods (324–1099 CE)

Byzantine era mansion called the House of Eusebius.[46]

During the Givati Parking Lot dig a hoard of 264 gold coins was found from the time of Emperor Heraclius (7th century AD).

New Testament references for the City of David being Bethlehem

The place of Jesus's birth, Bethlehem, is also called the City of David (πόλις Δαυείδ).

Luke 2:4

"Of course, Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David."(εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν εἰς πόλιν Δαυεὶδ ἥτις καλεῖται Βηθλεέμ )

Luke 2:11

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (ὅτι ἐτέχθη ὑμῖν σήμερον Σωτήρ, ὅς ἐστιν Χριστὸς Κύριος, ἐν πόλει Δαυείδ)

Modern period

Ir David and the Mount of Olives

Mid-19th century photographs taken by Scotsman James Graham (photographer) (1853–57) show the ridge of Ir David as being devoid of housing. It is terraced and planted, apparently, with olive trees.[47]

Modern settlement began in 1873-1874, when the Meyuchas family, a Jewish rabbinical and merchant family that had lived in Jerusalem since their expulsion from Spain, moved a short distance outside the city walls to a house on the ridge.[48] During the latter stages of the Mandate era the nearby Arab village of Silwan expanded up the ridge as well. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the whole area fell on the eastern side of the Green Line under Jordanian control. Arab families continued to live on the ridge and to build houses there after 1967. From 1968 to 1977 the Israel Exploration Society started the first excavations at the Ophel, led by Benjamin Mazar and Eilat Mazar.[49]


The right to control both the archaeological and the residential aspects of the City of David is hotly contested by Israelis and Palestinians.[50] There is a proposal to turn most of the area into an archaeological park,[51] and to restore a part of the Kidron Valley currently inhabited by Arabs as a park to be called the Garden of the King.[52]

See also


  1. Ariel, D. T., & De Groot, A. (1978). The Iron Age extramural occupation at the City of David and additional observations on the Siloam Channel. Excavation at the City of David, 1985.
  2. Broshi, M. (1974). The expansion of Jerusalem in the reigns of Hezekiah and Manasseh. Israel Exploration Journal, 21–26.
  3. Reich, R., & Shukron, E. (2000). The Excavations at the Gihon Spring and Warren’s Shaft System in the City of David. Ancient Jerusalem Revealed. Jerusalem, 327–339.
  4. Eisenbud, D. (2015). Archeological find in Jerusalem’s City of David may answer ancient mystery. Jerusalem Post.
  5. Mazar, Eilat, 2009, The Palace of King David, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David. Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005–2007. Jerusalem
  6. Light at the End of the Tunnel: Warren's Shaft Theory of David's Conquest Shattered, Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron, BAR January/February 1999: 22-33, 72, quote: "The area we are talking about – the eastern slope of the City of David and particularly the strip above the Gihon Spring – has been subject to more archaeological excavations and research than any site in Jerusalem, and even in Israel."
  7. Excavations in the City of David Under Ottoman Rule, quote: "Warren and Guthe's discoveries triggered the discussion on whether it was this very hill, on the southern outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, which was taken by King David and turned into his capital."
  8. Palestine Exploration Fund 1895, including a number of scholarly discussions on the debate around the location
  9. Excavations in the City of David Under Ottoman Rule, quote: "One of the peculiar outcomes of this "dig" was that the ancient graves discovered on the upper part of the slope and correctly dated by Vincent to the Early Bronze period, are still the most ancient remains known, not only on the southeastern hill but in all of Jerusalem. This discovery has actually provided the decisive proof that the southeastern hill is the site of the earliest human settlement of Jerusalem and confirms its identification as the biblical City of David."
  10. The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, p.167
  11. Israel Finkelstein, Neil Asher Silberman, David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of Western Tradition, Simon and Schuster, 2007 p.129.
  12. Hillel Geva, 'Western Jerusalem at the End of the First Temple Period in Light of the Excavations in the Jewish Quarters,' in Andrew G. Vaughn, Ann E. Killebrew (eds.),Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period, Society of Biblical Literature, 2003,pp.183-208,p.183.
  13. Aviad Glickman, 'Silwan man who stoned Jewish vehicle gets 4 years,' at Ynet 27 Dec 2011.
  14. United Nations, Report of the Human Rights Council: Twelfth Session (14 September - 2 October 2009, UN 2010 p.98 (j).
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005–2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, p. 21.
  16. Rapoport, Meron, Shady Dealings in Silwan. Ed. Ehud Tagari. Trans. Shoshana L. Sappir. Ir Amim, May 2009
  17. Mizrachi, Yonathan, Archaeology in the Shadow of the Conflict Publication of Emek Shaveh, 2011
  18. Greenberg, Raphael. "Towards an Inclusive Archaeology in Jerusalem: The Case of Silwan/The City of David." Public Archaeology 8.1 (2009): 36
  19. Housing minister said to be mulling move to east Jerusalem, 26 October 2014. Quote: "Ariel's move, announced against the backdrop of growing tensions between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, evoked scathing criticism from the Left. "This is an irresponsible act by Minister Uri Ariel, who rather than try and curb the [Right's] provocations in Jerusalem, had decided to join the band of pyromaniacs eager to light up the powder keg and set Jerusalem on fire," Meretz leader MK Zehava Gal-On said Saturday. Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said, "Minister Ariel's intent to move into Silwan proves that the Jewish settlement in the neighborhood serves as political provocation by the radical Right -- not a housing solution for young couples. Ariel proved himself to be the [Balad MK] Hanin Zoabi of the Right, all he wants to do is act defiantly and ignite the area."
  20. Archaeology and the City of David, Rick Sherrod, Good News: A Magazine of Understanding, [1]
  21. 21.0 21.1 Macalister, R.A. and Duncan, J.G., Excavations on the hill of Ophel, Jerusalem, 1923-1925; being the joint expedition of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the 'Daily Telegraph', London, 1926.
  22. Edwin C. M. van den Brink, "A New Fossil Directer of the Chalcolithic Landscape in the Shephelah and the Samarian and Judaean Hill Countries: Stationary Grinding Facilities in Bedrock", IEJ 58.1 (2008), pp.1-23.
  23. Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, p. 23.
  24. 'Massive' ancient wall uncovered in Jerusalem
  25. [2]"Oldest written document ever found in J'lem," Hartman, July 12, 2010, Jerusalem Post.
  26. Rollston, Christopher. "Rollston's Reflections on the Fragmentary Cuneiform Tablet from the Ophel: A Critique of the Proposed Historical Context". Retrieved 15 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. I Kings 11:27 and I Chronicles 11:8
  28. II Samuel 5:8
  29. I Kings 9:15
  30. Rachel Ginsberg (2009-06-29). "The world of archeology is rocked by evidence of King David's palace unearthed in Jerusalem". Retrieved 2009-06-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Israel Finkelstein, Ze'ev Herzog, Lily Singer-Avitz and David Ussishkin (2007), Has King David's Palace in Jerusalem Been Found?, Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, 34(2), 142-164
  32. Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, pp. 52-3.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, p. 52.
  34. Color photo in Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, p. 53.
  35. Herzog, H. and Sinver-Avitz, L., Redefining the Center: The Emergence of State in Judah, Tel Aviv, 31/2, 2004, pp. 209-44.
  36. Jerusalem city wall dates back to King Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Fe. 23, 2010, [3]
  37. Missing or empty |title= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 38.4 The Necropolis from the Time of the Kingdom of Judah at Silwan, Jerusalem, David Ussishkin, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 33, No. 2 (May, 1970), pp. 33-46,
  39. Joffe, Alexander, The Rise of Secondary States in the Iron Age Levant, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Vol. 45, No. 4, 2002, pp. 425-467.
  40. "Ancient Jerusalem's Funerary Customs and Tombs: Part Two, L. Y. Rahmani, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 229-235.
  41. Jerusalem: an archaeological biography, Hershel Shanks,Random House, 1995, p. 80.
  42. Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem: The finds from areas A, W and X-2 : final report Volume 2 of Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem: Conducted by Nahman Avigad, 1969-1982, Nahman Avigad, Hillel Geva, Israel Exploration Society, 2000.
  43. Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, pp. 77-8.
  44. Mazar, Eilat, Excavations at the Summit of the City of David, Preliminary Report of Seasons 2005-2007, Shoham, Jerusalem and New York, 2009, pp. 78-9.
  45. "2,000 year-old cameo found in Jerusalem," Aug. 30, 2010, Jerusalem Post.
  46. Macalister, R.A. and Duncan, J.G., Excavations on the hill of Ophel, Jerusalem, 1923-1925 being the joint expedition of the Palestine Exploration Fund and the 'Daily Telegraph', London, 1926.
  47. Photos available in "Picturing Jerusalem, James Graham and Michael Diness, photographers", ed. Nissan N. Perez, Israel Museum, 2007. p. 31 and others.
  48. Yemin Moshe: The Story of a Jerusalem Neighborhood, Eliezer David Jaffe, Praeger, 1988, p. 51
  49. Excavations on the South of the Temple Mount. The Ophel of Biblical Jerusalem, Qedem. Monographs of the Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem , No. 29, 1989 ISSN 0333-5844
  50. Ahdaf Soueif writes on Ir David's settling of Silwan in the Guardian
  52. id=168833 Gan Hamelech residents wary of Barkat’s redevelopment plan, Abe Selig, Feb. 16, 2010, Jerusalem Post.

External links

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