Magnificent Ancient Royal Estate Unearthed in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced today the discovery a number of ancient stone artifacts that were once part of a magnificent royal estate that was unearthed on Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv (Commissioner’s Palace) Promenade. They have been dated to around 2,700 years old. The capitals (the crowning member of a column) feature a symbol which represents the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and the Bank of Israel even featured it on their five-shekel coin.

“Five-shekel coin against the background of the capital discovered at Armon Hanatziv. Photo by Yaniv Berman/Israel Antiquities Authority”

Ya’akov Billig, the excavation director, believes the structure was originally built between the reigns of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, around 700 BC. The style of the capitals is called Proto-Aeolian and is known as one of the most important styles of the First Temple period (c.1000-586 BC).

“This is a first-time discovery of scaled-down models of the giant Proto-Aeolian capitals, of the kind found thus far in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, where they were incorporated above the royal palace gates. The level of workmanship on these capitals is the best seen to date, and the degree of preservation of the items is rare.”
~ Ya’akov Billig

There were three column capitals found and two of them were discovered neatly stacked on one another.

“At this point it is still difficult to say who hid the capitals in the way they were discovered, and why he did so, 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.”
~ Ya’akov Billig

“Simulation of the royal estate that stood in Armon Hanatziv. Illustration by Shalom Kveller/City of David Archives”

Excavators also found luxurious balustrades and window frames. The rest of the structure appears to have been demolished. Archaeologists commenting on it believe that it was most likely destroyed in 586 BC, during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.

The owners and/or inhabitants of the estate have not been identified. Possibly a Judean king or a member of nobility stayed there, but nothing is yet certain.

“This discovery joins villas, mansions and government buildings outside the city’s walls, testifying to the relief felt by the residents after the Assyrian threat was over,”
~ Ya’akov Billig

This is one of many amazing finds from this year. In August, a Biblical-Era citadel was discovered 40 miles south of Jerusalem and also some teens found rare 24 karat gold treasure coins in Yavne, Israel. It will be interesting to see what surfaces next.

The findings of the excavation are to be discussed on September 8th, 2020 at the online Megalim archeology conference.

Here are some more images of the findings:

“Mini capitals that stood at the top of the columns revealed in the Armon Hanatziv excavation. Photo by Shai Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority”
“The royal stone capitals unearthed at Armon Hanatziv. Photo by Shai Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority”
“Excavation of the second capital uncovered. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority”

Here’s the video from IAA announcing their discovery:

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[1] – Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.

[2] – Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.

[3] – Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.

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