Jerusalem: Newly found coins underneath
Jerusalem`s Western Wall could change the accepted belief
about the construction of one of the world`s most sacred sites
two millennia ago, Israeli archaeologists said on Wednesday.
The man usually credited with building the compound known
to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble
Sanctuary is Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4 B.C. Herod`s
monumental compound replaced and expanded a much older Jewish
temple complex on the same site.
But archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority
now say diggers have found coins underneath the massive
foundation stones of the compound`s Western Wall that were
stamped by a Roman proconsul 20 years after Herod`s death.
That indicates that Herod did not build the wall, part of
which is venerated as Judaism`s holiest prayer site, and that
construction was not close to being complete when he died.
"The find changes the way we see the construction, and
shows it lasted for longer than we originally thought," said
the dig`s co-director, Eli Shukron.
The four bronze coins were stamped around 17 AD by the
Roman official Valerius Gratus. He preceded Pontius Pilate of
the New Testament story as Rome`s representative in Jerusalem,
according to Ronny Reich of Haifa University, one of the two
archaeologists in charge of the dig.
The coins were found inside a ritual bath that predated
construction of the renovated Temple Mount complex and which
was filled in to support the new walls, Reich said.