The Jerusalem Archaeological Park just outside the southern wall of the Temple Mount offers an opportunity to explore the monumental ruins of the Herodian Temple Complex and later Byzantine/Islamic structures that have been uncovered here during the past 3 decades. When The Temple was in existence (before A.D. 70), the southern wall of the Temple Mount was the main route for approaching The Temple. A broad staircase, mentioned in Talmudic writings, ended in a broad esplanade, which was wide enough to provide access to the two sets of gates that once existed, fragments of which can still be seen. From the gates, pilgrims would have proceeded through tunnels that dramatically emerged onto the surface of the sacred enclosure not far from The Temple building itself. Visitors to the park can now stand on the Broad Stairs (the gates are now blocked by later construction, but traces are still visible) and walk on the Herodian market street that ran along the western side of the Temple Mount. They can also explore the ruins of Herodian-era shops along the market street (they were part of the complex and rents may have gone toward the upkeep of the Temple Mount), and see where the great staircase to the Temple Mount once stood, supported by a series of arches that spanned the market street below. The excavations have also uncovered Byzantine-era structures that once stood beside the partly destroyed southern wall of the Temple Mount, and the impressive walls of early Islamic palaces (ca. 8th c. A.D.) that took their place.
The Davidson Exhibition Center at the archaeological park gives you the chance to take a virtual tour of the Temple Mount as archaeologists believe it might have appeared to a pilgrim in Herodian times (late 1st c. B.C. until the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70). Located in the ruins of an early-8th-century Islamic palace uncovered by archaeologists at the foot of the Temple Mount, the Davidson Center contains a small museum with artifacts found at the site, as well as videos and computer information on the Temple Mount's history. The video and digital re-creation of the Herodian Temple Mount are interesting, but there are a number of anachronistic and questionable details (just see if you can spot them). There are 1-hour audio tours of the center (which is already relatively self-explanatory) and also of the archaeological park (worthwhile for those who want to understand all the details of the site). Private guides can be booked in advance for NIS 160 ($40/£20) per person, but a map and the recorded audio tour of the site, available at the Davidson Center, is sufficient for most visitors.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Highly Recommended 2010