Saturday, August 23, 2008

Location of Solomon’s Temple, 2: Which Jerusalem?

That Solomon’s Temple was in Jerusalem is a given. The question is, “which Jerusalem?” The reason this question is pertinent is because the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem have changed throughout history, sometimes dramatically. The boundaries of ancient Jerusalem in the different periods are not clearly delimited, but can be roughly established through pottery typology and stratification through archaeological soundings and excavations. What this data establishes is that, at the time of Solomon, urbanized Jerusalem was restricted to the region along the north-west running ridge, the zone now known as the Temple Mount and the modern Arab village-suburb of Silwan, outside the southeast walls of the modern Jerusalem. (For maps, see the bibliography listed below.)

There is no archaeological evidence of any 10th century BC urban settlements outside of this area—although we should remember that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” that is to say, there may have been urban settlement there during that period, which has remained undiscovered. On the other hand, the obvious place to search for the location of Solomon’s temple is in the area where we have already discovered archaeological data from the proper time period. Unfortunately, there has been little serious archaeology done on the Temple Mount, although recent sifting of the excavated fill from Muslim constructions there has uncovered pottery and seals from the First Temple Period (c. 1000-586 BC), indicating urban activity in that area. Furthermore, the discovery of animal bones from the Temple Mount fill is consistent with animal sacrifice in that area. (On the other hand, the animal bones may simply be from normal cooking.)

The point to emphasize here is that, based on the archaeological data, the location of Solomon’s Temple should be sought somewhere on either the current Temple Mount, or on the extension to the Silwan ridge directly south of the Temple Mount extending down to the Siloam pool.

Bahat, D. 1989. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. New York: Simon and Schuster. 20-33.
Be-Dov, M. 2006. Carta’s Illustrated History of Jerusalem. 2nd ed. Jerusalem: Carta.
Shanks, B. 1995.  Jerusalem: an Archaeological Biography. New York: Random House.


Bryce Haymond said...

I suppose that Margaret Barker's theory of the temple over the Gihon Spring is plausible.

Thank you for these excellent posts!

Grandpa Enoch said...

I hope to get to that issue a little later.

Randy Robin said...

Just a quick comment: You may want to correct your top subtitle bar to read "...from an LDS perspective" instead of "...from and LDS perspective". I came here at Bryce Hammond's behest at and look forward to reading your blog. I have certainly enjoyed Bryce's! It is wonderful to hear bright minds' thoughts and insights on the temple and to have them kept "within the bounds the Lord has set." Bless you for your time and effort in such a worthy endeavor!

Randy Robin said...

Sorry, that's Bryce Haymond, I just noticed.