The goal of the Mount Zion Project is to finally explore the area just inside what is believed to be, the Essene gate. The Essene gate, which is now in ruins, was part of the wall surrounding First Century (Herodian) Jerusalem. Excavated by archaeologist Bargil Pixner in 1977, the gate is mentioned by Flavius Josephus in his description of the Walls of Jerusalem (Wars B5, C4.2 -145). The gate opened into what was most likely the Essene Quarter in Jesus' time. The Essene Quarter was among other things, the traditional site of the scene of the Last Supper, and the descent of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2. This should prove to be an important site to study so that we might develop a greater understanding of the earliest Christian origins. The Mt Zion excavation site is just outside the present Old City wall, along the road between the Zion Gate and the Dung Gate, but in Roman times it was well inside the walls of the ancient city of Jerusalem. (See Map of Mt Zion.)
In 1977-78 archaeological excavations were undertaken in a small area situated below the southern Old City wall of Jerusalem, about 100 metres to the east of the Zion Gate, by M. Broshi of the Israel Museum. The object of that excavation was to clarify the date of the fortification tower situated at the base of the wall, and to establish the stratigraphy of the area to its south. These excavations were intended to allow for the construction of a new gate to an underground car-park within the Jewish Quarter. Since the plan to build this underground car-park was not undertaken, the excavations ceased in 1978 abruptly, and were not resumed. The area was later included within the Jerusalem Municipal gardens and it was surrounded by a low fence, but the deep pits in the excavation were a constant danger to passer-bys. In 2000 the excavations at the site were resumed with two objectives: to record available stratigraphical data on the earlier excavations, and to clarify the chronology of the different levels at the site, ranging from Second Temple, Byzantine, Early Islamic to Ayyubid, and Ottoman periods.
In March 2007, the excavations at the site were resumed, picking up where we had left off in 2000. The object of the current excavations is to answer questions about the history of the strata represented at the site, from the Iron Age through to Medieval times.
A new project has been undertaken in 2008 by Dr. Shimon Gibson and Dr. James Tabor sponsored by The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. There will be a single season of excavations at Mount Zion in the Summer of 2009. We intend to expand the area to the south and east in order to further clarify the structural remains from the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. We will also be digging down to the top of the Second Temple period vaults which have been identified at the site. On the far west of the site we will be digging the Medieval to Early Islamic levels, and we hope to expose the Ayyubid layer where we surmise a metal workshop existed in the 13th century.
The 2009 season will be from June 14 (Sunday) to July 10 (Friday). For information about joining this project see the web site or contact Dig Mount Zion.
How do you fund an archaeological excavation during an economic recession? The total minimum costs for a four week season run about $90,000 and this does not include conservation, storage, and curating during the rest of the year. To raise the additional funds necessary to fund the 2009 season, the Dig on Mt. Zion is looking to the general public. If you would like to help, please visit their web site and make your donation of any size. It will be appreciated.
Dig Mount Zion Official Web Site
Church of the Apostles Found On Mt. Zion
Jerusalem's Essene Gateway: Where the Community Lived In Jesus' Time
(Articles Courtesy of Biblical Archaeology Review)
Reading: Pixner's With Jesus In Jerusalem Works Of Josephus