Dr. Avi Solomon

As a young student of archaeology he began his career by participating in archaeological excavations carried out by Bar Ilan University and Tel Aviv University at Tel Beth-Shemesh – an important biblical site in the northeastern Shephelah (lowland) of Judah – where he took part in unearthing the north Gate and adjacent structures, Under the academic guidance of Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz . Later he participated with Prof. Hanan Eshel in unearthing a residence compound of the Essenes who lived nearby the main site of Qumran, whose ancient scrolls from Second Temple times are considered part of the earliest writings in Hebrew found in the Land of Israel. Those dead sea scrolls are probably the most important archaeological finding of the 20th century in the Land of Israel. These scrolls were later the subject of his PhD thesis.

As a research assistant for Prof. Dan Bahat he participated in excavations in Tel Yavne and in the City of David unearthing a Second Temple era Mikveh (ritual bath), nearby the famous Area G. During the next 18 years Dr. Salomon excavated the Western Wall Tunnels. These excavations were very challenging since they involve multi-periods sites ranging from B.C 700 to A.D 1700, inside enclosed spaces. These excavations yielded numerous findings, among them some rare and important findings:


1. Findings dated to the Hellenistic Period and the Early Roman period (Second Temple Period):

 i) Exposing the foundations and the hidden course of the Western Wall. These were hidden underground for more than 1500 years and were exposed down to the bedrock by Dr. Salomon and his colleagues.

Western wall foundations 1 i

ii) A complex of Ritual Baths (Mikva’ot) dated B.C. 100 – A.D 70, the earliest of which dated to the Hellenistic period, the days of the Hasmonean dynasty in Jerusalem therefor considered a very rare Mikveh. Another Mikveh, located near one of the main entrances to the Temple, is a very luxurious one, and was probably used by the most important people of its time. It is possible that Jesus, immersed himself in this Mikveh before entering the Temple, as did all the Jews, while observing the laws of impurity and purity. Ritual Bath (Mikveh) is an exclusive Jewish facility, that was never used by any other nation or religion. Hence it is an ethnoarchaeological unique finding. The finding of Mikva’ot (ritual baths) dated to the Second Temple period near the entrance to the Temple Mount compound is an evidence of the presence of Jews on and around Temple Mount in this period.

Hasmonean Mikveh 1 ii A
herodian mikveh 1 ii B

iii) Remains of a kitchenware inside a residence compound. These are made of stone (which, according to the Jewish Purity Law, cannot become impure). These findings

support the hypothesis that the residents were Jewish priests who strictly observed the purity laws as a prerequisite for their service at the Temple.

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2. Findings dated to the Late Roman Period (1st – 3rd century):

i) Public latrine evidencing the existence of a large public bath close to Temple Mount walls as described in Chronicon Paschale (a 7th-century Greek Christian chronicle of the world).

Laterine Roman Period 2 i

ii) A small kiln, inside the vaults of the large bridge leading from the upper city of Jerusalem to Temple Mount.

Kiln 2 ii

iii) A theater-like building under Wilson’s Arch from the time that the Roman 10th Legion (Legio X Fretensis) camped in Jerusalem. This building was used as an odeon (a small Roman theater) or bouleuterion (a building which housed the council of citizens). This finding substantially affects the historic research of Jerusalem and enjoyed global publicity.

Building roman period 2 iii

3. Findings dated to the Byzantine Period (3rd – 5th century):

i) The remains of a large church with many architectural articles such as a pillar, rood screen, and Corinthian decorated capitals.

Corinthian capital 3 i

ii) The remains of an industrial area used to produce lime for construction and hydraulic plaster for water reservoirs.

4. Findings dated to Early Muslim Period (7th – 11th century):

Part of a large building with mosaic floors that was probably a part of a palatial complex, similar to the 7th century palace of the Umayyad dynasty located under the South wall of Temple Mount.

Umayyad mosaic floor F i

5. Findings dated to Crusader Period (11th – 12th century):

A large fortified 3 stories building was found near the Western Wall. This was the first time that this undocumented building was excavated and dated to the Crusader period. It was probably used by the Knight Templars that was based in Temple Mount and its surroundings during the 12th century. This building added an invaluable information to the knowledge of the Crusade period in Jerusalem.

6. Findings dated to Mamluk Period (13th – 16th century):

 i) A structure that accommodated storage spaces and stables. It was a part of a large Mamluk Han (Caravanserai: a kind of ancient motel) built during the 13th century by Tankiz an-Nasiri – the Mamluk governor of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel. A large public bath was discovered nearby.

ii) A large underground cistern, located under Wilson’s Arch leaning on the Western Wall. The Muslims named this cistern “Al Buraq Pool” after Mouhamad’s mythical horse who, according to the Quran carried him from Mecca to Jerusalem in one night.