An ancient quarry, c. 1 dunam in area and dating to the end of the Second Temple period (c. 2,030 years old), was uncovered in excavations being conducted on Shmuel HaNavi Street in Jerusalem, under the direction of Dr. Ofer Sion and Yehuda Rapuano of the Israel Antiquities Authority, prior to the construction of residential buildings.
Dr. Ofer Sion, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, believes, “The immense size of the stones (maximum dimensions: length 3 m, width 2 m, height 2 m) indicates it was highly likely that the large stones that were quarried at the site were destined for use in the construction of Herod’s magnificent projects in Jerusalem, including the Temple walls. It seems that a vast number of workers labored in the quarry where various size stones were produced: first they quarried small stones and when the bedrock surface was made level they hewed the large stones. The stones were quarried by creating wide detachment channels that were marked by means of a chisel which weighed c. 2.5 kilograms. After the channels were formed the stones were severed from the bedrock using hammers and chisels”.
“We know from historical sources that in order to build the Temple and other projects which Herod constructed, such as his palace, hundreds of thousands of various size stones were required – most of them weighing between two and five tons each”, said Dr. Sion. “The dimensions of the stones that were produced in the quarry that was revealed are suitable for the Temple walls. The large section that was exposed is actually a small part of an enormous series of quarries that was spread across the entire slope – from the Musrara Quarter to the Sanhedria Quarter. The massive quarrying effort, on the order of hundreds of thousands of stones, lowered the topography of Jerusalem in the vicinity of the Old City. Today, with the exposure of this quarry, the intensity of the building projects as described in the historical sources can be proven: Flavius Josephus wrote that before Herod built the Temple he prepared the infrastructure for it: the quarrying of the Temple’s stones lasted eight whole years. The Temple itself was built in a relatively short period of time of two years. With the exposure of the quarries in Sanhedria and Ramat Shlomo, it is clear that Herod began quarrying closest to the Temple and worked away from it: first he exploited the stone on the nearby ridges and subsequently he moved on to quarry in more distant regions”.
According to Dr. Sion, “In those days the world of hi-tech focused on quarrying, removing and transporting stones. Historical sources record that Herod trained more than 10,000 people to be involved in this work: they prepared suitable transportation routes and then moved the huge stones in a variety of ways – on rolling wooden fixtures that were drawn by camels, in pieces on carriages, etc.
Among the artifacts that were discovered in the excavation on Shmuel HaNaiv Street were metal plates (referred to in the Talmud as ‘cheeks’) that were used as fulcrums to severe the stones from the bedrock, and coins and pottery sherds that date to the end of the Second Temple period (the first century BCE).