First Temple-era structure, rare silver coin found in Jerusalem dig

Israeli archaeologists uncovered impressive and unique finds on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

By: World Israel News Staff

At excavations in Ein Hanniya in the Rephaim Valley National Park, archaeologists made a number of major discoveries. These include a large and impressive system of pools from the Byzantine period (4th–6th centuries CE), in addition to a fragment of a “capital,” which is the topmost part of a column. Capitals such as the one found at Ein Hanniya were typical of royal structures in the First Temple period. Archaeologists also uncovered a rare silver coin from the 4th century BCE, one of the most ancient ever found in the Jerusalem area.

These remarkable and significant finds were unearthed in Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) excavations at the site between 2012 and 2016. The excavations were carried out as part of the establishment of the park, situated near the Biblical Zoo.

Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director on behalf of the IAA, said “the most significant finding in the excavation is a large and impressive pool from the Byzantine period.”

The pool was built in the center of a spacious complex at the foot of a church that once stood there. Roofed colonnades were built around the pool that gave access to residential wings.

“It’s difficult to know what the pool was used for – whether for irrigation, washing, landscaping or perhaps as part of baptismal ceremonies at the site,” she said.

The pool’s water drained through a network of channels to a magnificent and very special structure, the first of its kind known in Israel – a fountain (nymphaeon).

Settlement in the area of Ein Hanniya apparently began at the time of the First Temple and perhaps even earlier.

First temple era royal estate

The most outstanding find from this period uncovered in the excavation is a fragment of a proto-Ionic capital – an artistic element typical of structures and estates of the kings of the First Temple period. The image of such a capital appears on the Israeli 5-shekel coin.

Similar capitals have been found in the City of David in Jerusalem, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Judah, and at Ramat Rachel, where one of the palaces of the kings of Judah was found. Such capitals were also found in Samaria, Megiddo and Hazor, which were major cities in the Kingdom of Israel.

According to the archaeologists, the site at Ein Hanniya may have been a royal estate at the time of the First Temple. After the destruction of the First Temple, settlement was renewed at the site in the form of an estate house that was inhabited by Jews.

One of the most ancient coins discovered in Jerusalem

The most significant find from this period is a rare silver coin, one of the most ancient so far discovered in the Jerusalem area – a drachma, minted in Ashdod by Greek rulers between 420 and 390 BCE.

The coins, pottery, glass, roof tiles and multicolored mosaic tesserae from the Byzantine period unearthed in the excavation attest to the fact that it was during this period (4th–6th centuries CE) that the site reached its zenith.

Jerusalem District Archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch said archaeologists believe “that some early Christian commentators identified Ein Hanniya as the site where the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized.”

The baptism of the eunuch by Philip was one of the key events in the spread of Christianity.

The park, an extraordinarily beautiful site incorporating archaeology, an ancient landscape and a unique visitor experience, will open to the public in the coming months.  A great deal of attention was paid to restoring the imposing fountain structure, including cleaning and replacing stones in its façade based on historic photographs and paintings.