Earlier this year, a tour guide discovered a carved column in the old city of Jerusalem, but little has been reported about the treasure that experts say dates back to biblical time and could actually be part of a whole temple or place buried below.
Why so little news?
The Jewish Press, which first reported on the find in April, wrote that political reasons could be to blame, citing Israeli authorities as “trying to silence this discovery”.
The Jewish Press reported guide Binyamin Troper, who also is a training coordinator at Kfar Etzion field school, first seeing the carvings of the top of the column in a cave when he was helping a tourist who needed assistance. It is speculated that the column runs down to a complete — yet buried — structure.
Tropper alerted Kfar Etzion Director Yaron Rosenthal, who the Press reported saying the find could offer details of Jewish kings from Biblical times. Not only that but he said it could be a rare opportunity to find a whole building that hasn’t had a “secondary use,” in later centuries.
But Rosenthal approached an official with Israel’s Antiquities Authority who told him, “Yaron, please, you found it, but we know about it. Now forget the whole thing and keep your mouth shut.”
The Times of Israel, which wrote about the find in May, reported the secrecy could be because of its location:
The remains are in the politically charged West Bank, on the outskirts of an Arab village and on land privately owned by a Palestinian — all reasons the Israeli government might deem attempting an excavation there a major political headache to be avoided.
Tropper, the guide, said he hoped interest from professional archaeologists would prod the government to conduct an excavation. The site could be a source of income for the Palestinian owners and the nearby village, he suggested.
The Israel Antiquities Authority has been careful in its public responses to reports of the new finding, but did not rule out an excavation.
“This is indeed an important find, which preliminary information dates to the time of the kings of Judah,” the authority said in a statement Sunday.
“At the same time, it should be known that the subject is sensitive and requires treatment that is delicate and responsible. The Antiquities Authority, along with all other relevant authorities, has been dealing with this for some time in an attempt to bring about the complete excavation of the remains, and will continue its attempts to do so.”
The Times of Israel also reported further details from experts about the column. Archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel with Hebrew University called the construction of the column’s capital (its top) “first rate” and said there is “definitely something important there from biblical times, the 9th or 8th centuries BCE.”
He continued saying it is at the entrance of a carved water tunnel that goes 250 yards underground, suggesting it could be the Siloam Tunnel under is now the Palestinian neighborhood Silwan. This project, the Times of Israel reported, is thought to have been headed by King Hezekiah.
The New International Translation of the Old Testament of the Bible states Hezekiah, in 2Kings 20:20, “made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city [...].”