Herod may not have completed Jerusalem’s Western Wall, archaeologists discover

It is one of the holiest spots in one of the holiest cities in the world. The Western Wall attracts Jews and Christians alike, and is on the limits of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a Muslim holy site.

It’s always been believed to have been built by King Herod, the king of Judea and a vassal of the Roman Empire who reigned from 37-4 BC. Herod expanded the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the Western Wall is the western boundary of that expansion.

Now archaeologists have found evidence that the Western Wall was finished after Herod’s death. The coins found under the foundations date to 20 years after Herod died.

This isn’t news to scholars. The ancient Jewish historian Josephus wrote that the project was finished by Herod’s great-grandson. Archaeologists also found a mikve (Jewish ritual bath), three clay lamps in a style popular in the first century AD, and other artifacts. Seventeen coins were found, including two minted by the Roman governor Valerius Gratus in 17 or 18 AD.

I visited Jerusalem several times when I was working as an archaeologist in the Middle East back in the early Nineties. On numerous occasions I saw where local tradition came up against the findings of archaeology and history. For example, the route of the Via Dolorosa, the trail Jesus supposedly took on his way to Calvary, was only established in the 19th century. In the centuries before that there were several different routes.

In the current debate between the faithful and the atheists, these facts change nothing. The deflating of a local tradition will not make anyone stop believing in God, and the atheists are equally convinced about their views.

Photo courtesy Chris Yunker.

Photo of the Day (4.13.10)

This is what travel photography is all about. If I decided to omit any sort of caption from this image, you’d probably still be able to guess quite a few things about where it’s taken and what’s happening in the picture.

But since it’s not my job to make you guess, I’ll reveal that this is a shot taken near the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was captured by Flickr user and regular contributor Ohad*, who describes that this man was seemingly overwhelmed from the emotional experience at the wall. Kudos to Ohad for snapping such an intimate picture in a place like this – certainly something that many people wouldn’t have the courage to do.

If you’ve captured an emotional moment in your travels, we want to see it! Submit it to the Gadling Flickr Pool and share it with us – it might just be our next Photo of the Day!