Ancient Jerusalem

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Unlike many “dead” ancient cities where all you can observe is rocks and broken stone columns Jerusalem is a living ancient city where the bustling 21st century city lives, plays and works among the ancient remains and reminders of this city’s ancient history.

Ancient Pre-Temple Jerusalem (4500BC-1000BC)

The history of ancient Jerusalem can be traced back to the Copper Age (c.4000BC) and the Bronze Age of c. 3000BC using archaeological findings of ceramics, burial caves and even houses, the city was also mentioned in texts from c.1800BC. Several water systems and aqueducts have been found in Jerusalem dating back approximately to this period like Warren’s Shaft and Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The Jewish tradition states that Jerusalem was founded by Abraham’s descendants Shem and Eber. The Book of Joshua states that the city was under the jurisdiction of the Tribe of Benjamin and controlled by Jebusites but when King David made Jerusalem the capital of the Kingdom of Israel in the 11th century the city really came in to its own.

First Temple Ancient Jerusalem (1000BC-586BC)

David’s son Solomon was responsible for having the First Holy Temple built in Jerusalem on the site where the Dome of the Rock stands today. The period of the First Temple lasted 400 years and today in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park you can see the Ophel City Walls believed to have been the Water Gate mentioned in the Bible. These are the most extensive archaeological findings from the First Temple Period. The park is part of the Davidson Center Archeological Garden. In 701BC the Broad Wall” in the Jewish Quarter was constructed.

In the Jewish Quarter you can see the remains of the “Burnt Room” in the “House of the Bullae” the result of Nebuchadnezzar’s destructive conquest of the city.

Second Temple Ancient Jerusalem (538BC-70AD)

When the Jews were permitted to return from exile in Babylon they began rebuilding the city, remains of this ancient period of Jerusalem’s history can be seen in the tombs west of the Jaffa Gate. The Kidron Valley Tombs date from the Roman Period 63BC-324AD as do many structures erected under Herod’s orders when he occupied the city. From this period you can see Robinson’s Arch, the Temple Mount Walls and within the Jewish Quarter, Herodian houses. This was also the period when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem and you can walk the Via Dolorosa, visit the Room of the Last Supper and wander in the Garden of Gethsemane which still remains from this ancient period. Again the Holy Temple was destroyed.

Byzantine Period of Ancient Jerusalem (325AD-638AD)

Following Christ’s crucifixion Christianity flourished under the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, it was during this period that the Christian’s most holy site in Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was constructed (300′s AD) and the city fortifications strengthened. The Church of the Assumption, Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu and Basilica of Agony were first constructed (they were to be rebuilt several times over the course of the next century).  The Roman Cardo which runs through the Old City is also from this period when this was the city’s main thoroughfare. A little later in 614AD when the Persians conquered the city the Dominus Flevit Church was erected.

Early Islamic Period in Ancient Jerusalem (660AD-1073AD)

During the Umayyad period (660-750AD) many of the best know Islamic structures in the city were built, the Dome of the Rock; Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and other buildings south of the mount which were destroyed by a subsequent earthquake. From 750-1073AD the Abbasid and Fatimid period ensued in Jerusalem and in all the Islamic rule of Jerusalem lasted 450 years.

Crusader Period in Ancient Jerusalem (1099AD-1187AD)

During the Crusader period in Jerusalem many major churches were rebuilt on the original sites, and others like the Church of the Assumption were restored, today we can see pieces of the Crusader structures integrated in the later structures. For example the Basilica of the Agony, the Crusaders also destroyed synagogues and were in the habit of turning Mosques into churches. In 1187 the city fell to Saladin the Kurd.

Late Islamic Period in Ancient Jerusalem (1187AD-1917AD)

During this period buildings around the Temple Mount which had been destroyed were rebuilt and the city fortifications were once again strengthened. In 1538 under the Ottoman Turk Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent the city walls we know today were constructed; the Sultan’s Pool and several public fountains.

Jerusalem fell into a quiet period in the 17th and 18th centuries and then in the 19th century the city began once again to flourish and as they say the rest is (modern) history…

As you can see from this brief outline there remain a great number of sites within the Jerusalem to see from each of the periods in Jerusalem’s ancient past.

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