YANIV SALAMA-SCHEER, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 13, 2007
As the controversy swirls around the construction of the new bridge leading
to the Temple Mount at the Mughrabi Gate, archeologists have already
uncovered finds from the medieval period and early Islamic era that shed new
light on Jerusalem's history.
"We have dug three meters down and discovered massive walls which we believe
are from the early Islamic Umayyad period," Jerusalem's chief archeologist
Yuval Baruch said. "Because of its proximity to the Wohl Archeological Park,
I personally hope to find the rest of the Umayyad palaces."
The archeological park currently has the only uncovered ruins of the Umayyad
palaces which were destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake. They were built in
the eighth century as the seat for the Caliphate when visiting Jerusalem.
The uncovered complex includes a harem for the caliph's wives, bathhouses, a
kitchen, a dining area, and quarters for the caliph's family and servants.
The palace also featured a bridge that allowed the caliphs direct access to
the Aksa Mosque
Among the findings at the site currently being excavated for the rebuilding
of the bridge to the Mughrabi Gate, the archeologists have found pipes
belonging to a medieval water system, but for Baruch, "the most interesting
find is that we have found the evidence which suggests that right under the
Umayyad ruins are Byzantine ruins [135-638], and under these, we believe
there are Herodian roads and other ruins from the Second Temple period."
"The main excavations of the Umayyad and Byzantine ruins at the Mugrabi area
will begin in a couple of days, and if we are patient enough, in five or six
months time we could find Second Temple period ruins" to add to what has
already been discoved in the adjacent archelogical park, Baruch added.
The excavations in the archeological garden are taking place in three
separate sites. There are two on the western side of the park and one site
atop the bathhouses and ritual baths situated directly across Robinson's
Arch, the bridge that connected the Temple complex to the markets. 4nd earth
that line the steps descending down into the park from the road leading to
the Dung Gate, but have already found pieces of pottery and other artifacts
which have not been dated as of yet.
"We have uncovered pieces of Jerusalem's history," Baruch said, "but we are
unsatisfied with the amount of archeological results in Jerusalem. We need
to continue with our work so we can find out more of the history of these
buildings which gives us more information."
Baruch also expressed concern that if the excavations stopped, the new ruins
would be damaged if they are not immediately and properly salvaged.
The findings at the excavation site could pose a problem for the initial
project to reinforce the Mugrabi bridge. The original plan would have seen
pillars placed under the bridge for support.
Now, due to the findings, Baruch acknowledged that some re\planning might be
necessary. "Before we know what exactly is in the area, no matter what we
find and no matter which historical period it comes from, we will need to
find a new spot for the pillars of the bridge," Baruch said.
According to city hall officials, the Jerusalem Municipality will submit new
plans for the Mughrabi Gate bridge leading to the Temple Mount, but work is
scheduled to continue at the site.
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