A discovery of ancient coins under the Western Wall of Jerusalem shed new light on how the Temple Mount was built. King Herod has largely been credited for leading the construction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. His temple was built on the site of the original temple built by Solomon in Old Testament days.
The coins discovered under the Western Wall are significant because they are dated twenty years after Herod’s death in 4 B.C. Historians say these coins suggest that Herod was not responsible for the construction of the wall Jews view as the most holy site for prayer in Jerusalem. Construction of Herod’s temple may have taken longer than anyone previously believed.
Valerius Gratus, a Roman governor in the region, stamped the coins in 17 A.D., suggesting that construction of the temple was not completed until at least that year. Incidentally, Gratus preceded Pontius Pilate, the governor famous for his role in the execution of Jesus Christ.
Archaeologists excavating an area under the wall discovered the coins in a drainage tunnel that temple builders filled in as part of the construction effort. According to their opinions, the Western Wall was not built until after Herod’s death, meaning the temple was likely completed decades later.
Historians often turn to the writings of Josephus Flavius, a historian who wrote of the Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70. By his account, the Temple was finished by King Agrippa II, a descendant of Herod. Josephus reported that the temple had only been finished for two decades before the Romans tore it down. The recently unearthed coins provide the first archaeological confirmation of that account.
Ironically, it may have been the completion of the temple that led to its destruction. Nearly 20,000 workers left unemployed when the building was completed helped stir unrest in Jerusalem, leading to intervention by Rome.
The archaeological dig has uncovered ruins found in the Biblical record. The Pool of Siloam is at one end of the drainage tunnel that held the coins and a ladder at the other end leads to a 2,000-year-old city street.
According to the Associated Press, other artifacts found during the effort include lamps, pots, a sword and coins left behind by rebels as they ran from the Romans. The find underscores the rich history that surrounds the Temple Mount. With the Dome of the Rock now the dominant structure on the site, the Temple Mount is peculiar as being a holy site to two conflicting religions.