Archaeologists have unearthed a “magnificent palace” located approximately 2 miles south of Jerusalem’s Old City in the East Talpiot neighborhood (also known as Armon Hanatziv). It is believed that the palace was constructed around the 8th or 7th century BC.
They’re baffled, however, as to why some of the artifacts at the palace were carefully buried while others were not. Some of the items found include three ornate stone capitals that contained lavish carvings at the top of the columns. In a statement, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) described how magnificent these were, “The column capitals, identified with royal construction of the First Temple period [10th-6th Century BC], are the most beautiful and impressive that have been uncovered to date.” Professor Yaakov Billig who was the director of the excavation, said, “This is a very exciting discovery. The level of workmanship on these capitals is the best seen to date, and the degree of preservation of the items is rare.”
They admitted that they had “great surprise” that two out of the three capitals were “neatly buried, one on top of the other”. Billig described the confusion of the carefully buried artifacts, “At this point it is still difficult to say who hid the capitals in the way they were discovered, and why he did so,” adding, “but there is no doubt that this is one of the mysteries at this unique site, to which we will try to offer a solution.” Artifacts from luxurious window frames were also unearthed.
Another interesting fact about the capitals is that the carvings that were found on them contained a symbol from the time of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel which is also depicted as one of the motifs on Israel’s five shekel coin. (Pictures can be seen here.)
Billig went into further details regarding the fact that the palace was constructed outside of the city walls. “This discovery attests to a new revival in the city and somewhat of an “exit from the walls” of the First Temple period after the Assyrian siege,” he explained, adding, “We have revealed villas, mansions and government buildings in the area outside the walls of the city.” “This testifies to the relief felt by the city’s residents and the recovery of Jerusalem’s development after the Assyrian threat was over.”
It is believed that the palace was destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC. But prior to it being wrecked, those who lived in the structure would have had a “breathtaking” view of the City of David (or Wadi Hilweh in Arabic) as well as King Solomon’s Temple. Since the style of the capitals was common with royal structures, it may have been a king who was living at the palace or perhaps a rich family of a nobleman.
The artifacts that were created from soft limestone will be on display in Jerusalem in the near future.