Excavation at Mount Zion uncovers evidence of biblical conquest

Archaeologists in Jerusalem unearth 2,600-year-old artifacts including arrowheads and gold jewelry at Mount Zion in discovery hailed as evidence of the ‘historical conquest of the city by Babylon’

  • Discovery comes from the 2019 season of Mount Zion Archaeological Project
  • Researchers found burnt wood and ash, potsherds, and Scythian arrowheads 
  • They also found gold and silver period jewelry, thought to be earring or tassel
  • The experts say the find points to the Babylonian conquest of 587 to 586 BCE

Archaeologists digging at Jerusalem’s Mount Zion have uncovered what they say is clear evidence of the ‘devastation and destruction’ that occurred during the Babylonian conquest 2,600 years ago.

At the site, a team led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found layers of burnt wood and ash along with pottery sherds, Scythian arrowheads, and gold jewelry in the style of the era.

Given the location and nature of the artifacts found, the experts say the signs all point to the historical conquest.

The announcement comes just weeks after the team revealed they’d uncovered evidence from the siege of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.

The experts say these artifacts – particularly the Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads (pictured above) – all point to this particular period in history. Arrowheads were found alongside fragments of pottery and gold jewelry during the dig


Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte say they’ve found evidence of the Babylonian conquest at Mount Zion from 587 to 586 BCE.

The team points specifically to the passages 25: 1-2 from the second book of Kings.

This, as cited by the university, states: 

‘So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 

‘On the ninth day of the [fourth] month the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. 

‘Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war [fled] by night by the way of the gate between the two walls…

‘And he [Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian captain of the guard] burnt the house of the Lord, and the King’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man’s house, burnt he with fire.’

The discovery is the second significant find from the 2019 season of the Mount Zion Archaeological Project, the team says.

‘We know where the ancient fortification line ran, so we know we are within the city,’ says UNC Charlotte professor of history Shimon Gibson.

‘We know that this is not some dumping area, but the south-western neighbourhood of the Iron Age city – during the 8th century BCE the urban area extended from the “City of David” area to the southeast and as far as the Western Hill where we are digging.’

While there are other possible explanations to account for in the discovery of an ashen layer, such as long-ago garbage burning or the deposits from ovens, the researchers say the uniqueness of this find points to a Babylonian siege.

‘In this case, the combination of an ashy layer full of artifacts, mixed with arrowheads, and a very special ornament indicates some kind of devastation and destruction,’ Gibson said.

‘Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.’

And, the experts say, these artifacts – particularly the Scythian-type bronze and iron arrowheads – all point to a particular period in history.

‘The arrowheads are known as “Scythian arrowheads” and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE,’ Gibson said.

‘They are known at sites outside of Israel as well. They were fairly commonplace in this period and are known to be used by the Babylonian warriors.

‘Together, this evidence points to the historical conquest of the city by Babylon because the only major destruction we have in Jerusalem for this period is the conquest of 587/586 BCE.’

The team is slowly but surely working its way through the site, and has yet to excavate the building associated with the newly discovered ‘destruction layer.’

This will likely happen in the 2020 season, the team notes.

For now, however, the team says clay artifacts including lamps are helping to date the discoveries made this year.

At the site, a team led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found layers of burnt wood and ash along with pottery sherds, Scythian arrowheads, and gold jewelry in the style of the era. The earring or tassel ornament made of gold and silver is shown

‘It’s the kind of jumble that you would expect to find in a ruined household following a raid or battle,’ Gibson said.

Above, student Miles Shen holds a lamp dating from the Iron Age

‘Household objects, lamps, broken bits from pottery which had been overturned and shattered and arrowheads and a piece of jewelry which might have been lost and buried in the destruction.

‘Frankly, jewelry is a rare find at conflict sites, because this is exactly the sort of thing that attackers will loot and later melt down.’

If the discovery really is what it’s thought to be, the researchers say it would direct evidence of scenes detailed in the Hebrew Bible.

‘I like to think that we are excavating inside one of the ‘Great Man’s houses’ mentioned in the second book of Kings 25:9,’ Gibson speculated.

‘This spot would have been at an ideal location, situated as it is close to the western summit of the city with a good view overlooking Solomon’s Temple and Mount Moriah to the north-east.

‘We have high expectations of finding much more of the Iron Age city in future seasons of work.’

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