JERUSALEM – Archaeologists here Monday unveiled a well-preserved, 2,000-year-old pyramid-shaped staircase believed to have been a podium used to communicate with pilgrims ascending the main road to the Second Jewish Temple.
“What we believe is probably someone would stand on the podium and preach to the people as they went by,” archaeologist Joe Uziel, who directed the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, told WND.
The structure, made of ashlar stone, is located on an excavated Second Temple road in the City of David, an archaeological site in Jerusalem adjacent to the Temple Mount.
“We don’t know of any other archaeological podiums in Jerusalem,” stated Uziel, explaining the uniqueness of the find.
He said he believes the podium was constructed by the same Jerusalem administration designers of the Second Temple road, which was unearthed at the City of David park about a decade ago.
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The road is believed to have been the main thoroughfare through which pilgrims ascended the mount, especially on Jewish high holidays.
In one of the most exciting modern archaeological finds in Jerusalem, City of David archaeologists previously excavated the Shiloah Pool at the base of the Temple road, a Jewish ritual bath likely used by visitors to the Temple. According to Jewish law, worshipers must first immerse themselves in a pool containing natural water to be ritually cleansed before entering the Temple.
The street most likely runs above the 2,000-year-old drainage channel, discovered a number of years ago, which carried rain water out of the city, archaeologists say. It was constructed in the fourth decade of the first century AD and was one of the largest projects undertaken in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.
Dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware were found at the foot of the pyramid-shaped staircase, Uziel revealed.
“We believe the structure was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public’s attention when walking on the city’s main street,” Uziel further said in a joint statement with fellow Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Nahshon Szanton.
“It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know.”
The two pointed out that according to rabbinic and Talmudic sources, there were designated “stones” used for public purposes during the Second Temple period.
For example, one source cites an “auction block” in connection with the street: “[A master] will not set up a market stand and put them (slaves) on the auction block” (Sifra, BeHar 6).
In the Mishnah and Talmud, the “Stone of Claims” is mentioned as a place that existed in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period: “Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back. And in reference to this we learnt: Go forth and see whether the Stone of Claims is covered.” (Bava Metzia 28:B).
Listen to Aaron Klein's interview with archaeologist Joe Uziel: