(HAARETZ) For more than 2,500 years, giant human-made mounds of earth and stone, some as high as a six-story building, have stood in the southwestern suburbs of Jerusalem. Their purpose: unknown. Their origins: unclear. Their builders: hotly debated. The mounds are a familiar site to locals. One has lovingly been nicknamed “Har Hatachat” – “Mount Ass” in Hebrew – ever since an early 20th century archaeologist dug a deep vertical trench into this rounded rise, reshaping it into the form of a human derriere, but otherwise failing to, erh, crack its secrets.
In late July, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the results of a much more thorough excavation conducted on one of these mysterious mounds. Under this one, archaeologists uncovered remains of a 2,700-year-old building and dozens of stamped jar handles, indicating the site was likely connected to the administration of the Kingdom of Judah in the First Temple period.