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Archaeologists find evidence of sloshed predecessors - and ancient city wall

by josh September 08 2008
ArchaeologyMunicipal newsNews

Jerusalem sprawl, then and now
Where the beer (and wall) was found

Apparently drinking and littering on the job was not uncommon when it came to digging out the remains of Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century. That's one of two major discoveries made last week by a team of (sober) archaeologists, who also discovered the remarkably intact remains of a city wall dating back to the Second Temple period. Ok, maybe the vintage bottles of beer and wine they found in the 120-year-old dig site don't constitute a major discovery, but considering modern Jerusalem's infatuation with all things drunken (or imbibed) lately, it's still pretty cool.

The discovered wall on Mt. Zion (the actual major find) constitutes the southern end of the city at its peak size in ancient times, though at 3.5 miles long, the city's fortifications pale compared to Jerusalem's current sprawl. Despite being 2,100 years old, the wall still stands about three meters tall and represents one of the best examples of Hasmonean architecture ever found. Even more astonishing is the Byzantine-era wall discovered directly on top of the Second Temple period one. Of course, in a city like Jerusalem, where everything is built on somebody else's something, a wall on top of another wall isn’t exactly something to write home about. Except when the wall follows the exact same line as its predecessor, without, according to the (presumably still sober) archaeological team, the knowledge that they were plagiarizing the city's previous inhabitants. It's almost like they were both trying to defend the same area. Crazy.

As for the beer and wine, that was left by a team of (possibly drunk) British archaeologists working on the city's southern and western walls between 1894 and 1897. An original attempt to find their work shaft, which had been filled in with dirt over the years proved unsuccessful. This time though, archaeologists found the old dig sites, which yielded shards of both beer and wine bottles as well as part of a shoe and a gas light, begging the most archaeological of questions: Exactly what was going on down there?

Photo of Mt. Zion's latest dig courtesy of The Israel Antiquities Authority.

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