The Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Sunday the discovery of a quarry that supplied large stones used to build the Second Temple compound during King Herod's time.
The ancient 1.23 acre quarry was found during an archeological dig in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood on the Shuafat ridge in northern Jerusalem.
Israel Antiquities Authority sources said the quarry's stones were placed as the foundations of the Second Temple. This is the first time such a quarry that can be linked to Jerusalem's grand construction projects of the Second Temple period has been discovered.
Stones found in the quarry reach about 26 feet and are similar to stones that were kept at the bottom parts of the Temple Mount compound.
Illustrating the size of the stones (photo: Courtesy of IAA)
This new discovery seems to provide an answer to the age-old question of where the giant stones used for Second Temple period Jerusalem buildings were taken from.
Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, IAA archaeologist Yuval Baruch called the ancient quarry a sensational discovery, saying, "There is no other structure in the whole east that was built in ancient times with such large stones used for its construction other than the Second Temple."
Baruch added that a number of clay artifacts, coins and tools dated back to the first century CE confirmed that the quarry was in operation during the peak of Second Temple period construction.
The quarry is located some 262 feet above the Temple Mount, and its proximity to the main road leading to Jerusalem is what determined its location. Archeologists believe that stones were dragged, with the help of bulls, down the slope to the construction sites in the city.
Placing these massive stones at the foundation of the Temple Mount is what preserved the structure's stability over thousands of years, without the use of plaster or cement.
Two main reasons support the belief that stones from this quarry were used for the construction of the Second Temple. One is the size of the structure's stones that matches the size of the remains in the quarry.
The other is the quarry's altitude, since stones of this size and weight, would be very difficult to lift, making it feasible that stones from the quarry were dragged down the hill.
Nonetheless, archeology is not an exact science, and the current findings are only considered a highly probable hypothesis.