An archaeological greeting from the builders of the Western Wall? The first archaeological evidence of the construction of the Western Wall has been found at the foot of the Temple Mount. This is a chisel that was used by the builders who erected the monumental structure of the Western Wall, at the end of the period of the Second Temple.

The chisel, which is about 15 cm in size, was found in an excavation conducted in the excavations of the lower plinth of the Western Wall, near the “Robinson Arch” located south of the Western Wall last year. The excavation area is below the level of the main street of Jerusalem that existed during the time of the Second Temple, approximately 5-6 meters below street level.

The chisel is made of iron, and it was discovered next to the stones of the Western Wall in excavation waste. The waste came from the stones of the wall at the time the stones were chipped for the final looking-over, – the chiseling of a perfect edge. At the head of the chisel is a kind of large “mushroom” that was created as a result of the hammer hitting the chisel while chipping the stones of the Western Wall. It is likely that fell out of the hands of one of the builders during the chiseling works. The builder didn’t bother to get down from the high scaffolding to retrieve it.

One can learn about the height of the walls and the depth to which the chisel may have fallen from the book of the historian Flavius Josephus: “The History of the War of the Jews with the Romans”. In the description of the construction of the Temple Mount compound, Flavius Josephus writes that “in the place where the retaining walls were built from the greatest depth, their height reached three hundred cubits, and in some places even higher than that”.

The chisel was uncovered by the archaeologist Eli Shukrun, who managed the excavations at the site on behalf of the Antiquities Authority. According to him, the chisel dates back to the time when the Western Wall was built. He pointed out that this is the first time in 2000 years that one can touch tools used by the builders of the Western Wall.

“Today, we are talking about them as stones. They are sacred. People touch them, kiss them and put notes on them. Today, for the first time, we can almost “touch” the workers who carved them, and built this wall. Until now, no one has found a tool that can be attributed to the workers who built these stones , who put them in their place. That’s why finding this tool is immensely significant,” he said.

The chisel was found in a layer of excavation waste that was piled up as a result of chipping away of the stones of the Western Wall. “There is a process of construction,” Shukrun explained. “First, the stones are brought from the quarry sites. Then they are put in place. They are then adjusted and finally, the face of the stone is chiseled. The tool found was used for this purpose.”

According to Shukrun, this is also the first time in over a hundred years of archaeological research around the Temple Mount, that a tool belonging to the builders has been found. Until now, tools belonging to the builders who built the walls of the Western Wall had never been found. Flavius Josephus stated that Herod trained ten thousand workers to build the Temple, the most magnificent structure of that time. He also says that during the time of Agrippa II, Herod’s great-grandson, 18 thousand unemployed workers remained after the construction work was finished. “It was an area full of workers, and area full of builders. And now, for the first time, we have evidence of that,” he said.

(From an article published on the NRG website)