Archaeologist claims to find chisel used to build Western Wall

Metal tool likely dropped by laborer working on higher sections, says Eli Shukron; Antiquities Authority still checking find

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Israeli archaeologist Eli Shukron (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)
Israeli archaeologist Eli Shukron (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)

An Israeli archaeologist claims to have found an ancient chisel used in the construction of the Western Wall some 2,000 years ago.

It was unearthed by archaeologists near the Davidson Center, south of the prayer site, Haaretz reported Tuesday, noting that the Israel Antiquities Authority has not publicized the finding because it first wants to study the tool and other relevant evidence more closely.

The 15 cm metal tool was discovered over a year ago in excavations headed by Eli Shukron of the IAA.

Shukron, who has been digging in the area for 19 years, maintained that the chisel is authentic, and was likely buried by rubble after a laborer working on the higher sections of the wall dropped it and failed to retrieve it.

“I have no doubt that this belong to the period of the Kotel’s construction,” Shukron said. “We found it by the foundations of the Kotel, about six meters beneath the main road of Jerusalem during the Second Temple era.”

The chisel was buried under the debris formed by the masonry work done on site, he said. Unlike some of the larger stones on the wall’s bottom levels, many of the wall’s bricks were brought from far-off quarries and placed at the site by workers.

“People pray and kiss these holy stones every day,” he said. “But someone carved them, chiseled them, someone put them in place. They were laborers, people with tools. Today, for the first time, we can touch one of their chisels.”

A common swift bird at the Western Wall (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)
A common swift bird at the Western Wall (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi /Flash90)

Shukron pointed to coins and ceramics discovered near the same area as proof of the tool’s antiquity — and claimed that these findings indicate that the wall was not built under Herod’s reign, as previously believed, but rather was a later construction.

Shukron has worked on excavations in the area for 19 years, alongside Professor Ronny Reich. Together, the two worked to excavate the Gihon spring, the Shiloah Pool, the Second Temple Road, and Jerusalem’s main water drainage tunnel.

The IAA said it would not comment on the find until tests on the chisel and other findings were completed.

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