An ancient limestone-made weight, dating to the First Temple period, was discovered in an archaeological excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) beneath Wilson’s Arch, right next to the Kotel, Western Wall, and the entrance to the Temple Mount.
The weight, corresponding to the known measurement unit of two shekalim, was retrieved during sifting of earthen fills by the City of David sifting project.
Other fascinating discoveries found at the site will be included in the tour of the Western Wall Tunnels.
Mordechai Eliav, director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said it was “exciting, in the month of Tishrei, whose symbol is the scales of justice, to find a souvenir from the First Temple period.”
“This finding strengthens the eternal connection between the Jewish nation, Jerusalem, and the Western Wall while offering us all encouragement,” he added.
Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehillah Lieberman, directors of the excavation on behalf of the IAA, explained that “the weight is dome-shaped with a flat base. On the top of the weight is an incised Egyptian symbol resembling a Greek gamma (γ), representing the abbreviated unit ‘shekel.’ Two incised lines indicate the double mass: two shekalim.”
|One of the uses of the shekel weight system during the First Temple period was to collect an annual tax of half a shekel dedicated to the sacrifices and upkeep of the Temple.
According to previous finds, the known weight of a single shekel is 11.5 grams, thus a double shekel should way 23 grams – exactly as this weight does. The accuracy of the weight attests to advanced technological skills as well as to the weight given to precise trade and commerce in ancient Jerusalem. Coins were not yet in use during this period, therefore the accuracy of the weights played a significant role in business.
Year-round and especially during the three times of pilgrimage, the area at the foot of the Temple Mount was sure to be busy. Locals and pilgrims would have traded for sacrifices and offerings as well as for food, souvenirs and other commodities. A weight such as the one discovered would have been used to measure accurate amounts of products at the market.
During previous archaeological excavations beneath Wilson’s Arch, several stone courses of the Western Wall were exposed, after being covered with earthen fills some 1,800 years ago.
“The unique finding from the First Temple Period, discovered in a context dating several centuries later to the Roman period, indicates that the area of the Western Wall encapsulates various remains from a wide range of periods reflecting the centrality of the area for many centuries” added Dr. Monnickendam-Givon and Lieberman.