Photo by Shai Halevy- Israel Antiquities Authority
Earlier this week archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered a preaching stone, or podium, on Second Temple Road in the city of David, Jerusalem. The discovery is thought to have been constructed by the same group who made Second Temple Road due to both bearing the same stone type and size in their make-up, placing the podium at roughly 2000 years old. This dating comes from coins found at the road edge which suggest that the road was constructed somewhere after AD 30 but before the Siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. Previously a small portion of the podium had been sighted a century ago by two British archaeologists, however, they assumed the steps they saw were part of a destroyed house that had long since vanished and left the site unexplored.
Currently the preaching stone, which bears the shape of a step pyramid, is the only one of its kind to have been discovered in Jerusalem and ancient Israel so archaeologists can only postulate as to what was announced from its location. There is thought that it may be the Stone of Claims or the Auction Stone mentioned in Rabbinic texts. The Talmud states, “Our Rabbis taught: There was a Stone of Claims in Jerusalem: Whoever lost an article repaired thither, and whoever found an article did likewise. The latter stood and proclaimed, and the former submitted his identification marks and received it back.” (Bava Metzia 28:B). Could this be that Claim Stone? Or, is it the Auction Stone as written about in a seperate text, “[A master] will not set up a market stand and put them [slaves] on the auction block.” (Sifra, Behar 6). It could also have been used to make town announcements or preach at pilgrims passing by the podium on their way to services in Temple Mount which lies at the top of Second Temple Road.
Dozens of intact pottery vessels, stone vessels, and glassware was also found at the base of the podium steps, suggesting to archaeologists that the podium may have been a site used for trading.
Not much more is known about the podium at this point in time with Dr Joe Uziel and Nahshon Szanton, the archaeologists jointly leading the dig on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, stating, “Given the lack of a clear archaeological parallel to the stepped-structure, the purpose of the staircase remains a mystery. It is certainly possible the rabbinical sources provide valuable information about structures, such as this, although for the time being there is no definitive proof.”.
It will be interesting to see what further discoveries are made regarding the podium as the excavation progresses.
Dr Joe Uziel discusses the Podium discovered in the City of David, whose excavation he is co-leader of.