It’s hard to avoid archaeology in Jerusalem–after all, you’re visiting a city that’s more than 3,000 years old that has been under the rule of some of the world’s most powerful empires, each of which has left its mark on the city.
So how do you prioritize what to see in the layers of history that make up a city like Jerusalem? I was going to write about some of the better known and most accessible archaeological sites, but I see that Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already done a really good job of providing a guide to the city’s archeological treasures.
They have left out one or two really fascinating sites, however, so here are some suggestions for additional places where you can see ancient Jerusalem:
The Herodian Quarter Wohl Museum is a couple of levels below today’s street level in the Old City. Here you’ll be amazed to see the remains of a couple of mansions used by wealthy Jerusalemites during the Second Temple period. Some of the residents were probably priests in the Temple, but their houses were designed in the Greco-Roman style that was all the rage in the world back then. Beautiful mosaics; ritual baths, ovens and lots of decorative items make this a place that should be high on your Old City itinerary.
The Davidson Center and Southern Wall excavations are also missing from the Foreign Ministry list, but should be near the top of your itinerary. A few steps away from the Western Wall that you’re sure to visit, enter the Davidson Center and be prepared for an interactive, entertaining, educational and experiential excursion through ancient Jerusalem. Be sure to wander through the area just below the intersection of the Western and Southern Walls for some surprising finds.
Just this week, Israeli archaeologists publicized the fact that a 2,000 year-old tunnel has been unearthed that links the City of David and the Southern Wall area of the Temple Mount. Expect it to be opened to the public within a year…
If the archaeology bug has really got you, make sure you take the opportunity to do a bit of sifting for yourself while you’re in Jerusalem. Spend two hours with the Temple Mount Sifting project and hold Temple fragments in your hand! A great experience for the whole family.