x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Discovery of coins challenges Western Wall history

Roman coins stamped at a later date to the long thought time period of the wall's construction are found underneath foundation stones.

JERUSALEM // Coins found 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 yesterday.

It was long thought that the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount was built in its entirety by Herod, a Jewish ruler who died in 4BC. The 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 at the time of his death.

The four bronze coins were stamped in about 17AD. They were found inside a ritual bath that predated construction of the renovated Temple Mount complexs.

The coins show that construction of the Western Wall had not even begun at the time of Herod's death and was likely completed only generations later by one of his descendants.