The Siebenberg House: How a Home Became a Museum
The Siebenberg House is a house / museum located in the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. The Siebenberg House is best-known for the archaeological finds that have been made beneath the present structure. The excavations under the house have revealed several archaeological layers, and allow one to obtain a glimpse of the city’s history. The Siebenberg House is particularly notable for archaeological material dating to the First and Second Temple Periods. Whilst the structure above serves as a house, the excavated area beneath the house has been turned into a museum, with guided tours being available to visitors.
The story of the Siebenberg House begins in 1970 with a Jewish couple by the name of Theo and Miriam Siebenberg. Theo was originally from Antwerp, Belgium, and had always dreamed of living in his ancestral land, Israel. During the Second World War, Theo and his family fled Belgium when it was occupied by Nazi Germany, and eventually arrived in the USA. In 1967, the Six-Day War broke out, in which several territories belonging to neighboring countries, including the Sinai Peninsula and the West Bank were captured by Israel. One of the results of this success was that it boosted the morale of the Israeli people, and the prestige of that country on the international stage. This in turn led to an increase in the number of Jewish immigrants coming from Western countries to settle in Israel. One of these was Theo Siebenberg.
One important find at the premises is a capital (part of a pillar) with the seven menorahs chiseled into it. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )
When Theo arrived in Israel, he purchased a house in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City (the exact address being 5, Beit Ha’Shoeva, Jewish Quarter, Jerusalem). This would become one of the more peculiar houses of the city. A modern, four-storey town house above ground shelters the archaeological excavations going on underneath this property. Theo reasoned that as the house is situated so close to the Temple Mount, it must have been once inhabited by the Jews during the Second Temple Period. It seems that archaeological surveys conducted at the site revealed that there was nothing of interest beneath the house. Nevertheless, Theo persisted in his belief, and decided to carry out his own archaeological excavations.
- Grisly Find of Human Remains in a Famous Museum Diorama: Whose Skull is on Display?
- Merrylin Cryptid Museum: Proof for the Existence of Mythical Beings or Elaborate Hoaxes?
- Extremely Rare Ancient Mosaic Bearing a Greek Inscription Discovered “Miraculously” in Jerusalem
The beginning of an ‘escape tunnel’ found in the house. It is theorized that at the time of the Great Revolt (2,000 years ago) the Jewish People were digging escape tunnels underneath the Upper City (Jewish Quarter) ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Prior to the excavations, however, the Siebenbergs had to first support their new house by putting up a multi-section retaining wall with anchors each holding up to 60 tons of pressure, so as to ensure that the building did not come crashing down when the excavations began. It took eight years for this to be completed after which the excavations could commence. It has been pointed out that the earth beneath the house was so compact that it amounted to five times the volume of the excavated area. As the alley outside the house was too narrow for modern machinery, the earth had to be removed manually in buckets, sifted for artifacts, and then carried on the backs of donkeys to waiting trucks.
The key ring, of the Lady of the House, found in the excavation. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )
Much attention has been placed on the finds that were made at the site. For instance, the first piece of artifact found was a bronze key ring, supposedly dating to the Second Temple Period. It has been speculated that the key ring was used by a woman to open her jewelry box. Apart from that, other objects such as glassware, armaments, and pottery have also been unearthed. On top of that, ritual mikveh baths, and even an ancient burial chamber have been found. It may be said that a part of the history of Jerusalem, i.e. the First and Second Temple Periods, has been revealed through the excavations conducted at the Siebenberg House, and that it forms a link between the past and the present inhabitants of the city.
- Discoveries Show that Galilee and Jerusalem are Far Older than Once Believed
- The First Temple: Crowning Achievement of King Solomon and Home of the Legendary Ark of the Covenant
- Godfrey of Bouillon: Leader in the First Crusades and Ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
A collection of the artifacts that have been found and are on display at the Siebenberg House museum. ( Siebenberghouse)
Today, the Siebenberg House functions as a museum, and is open to the public. Apart from guided tours around the excavated areas of the museum, an informative slide show explaining the excavation process is also available for visitors who are curious to learn more about the site.
Top image: A photo of the interior of the Siebenberg House. ( CC BY-SA 4.0 )
By Wu Mingren
Aarons, L. & Feinsilver, G., 1982. Jerusalem Couple Excavates Under Newly Built Home in Search of Their Roots. [Online]
Available at: https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-archaeology-review/8/2/6
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2017. Museums in Jerusalem: Siebenberg House Museum. [Online]
Available at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/siebenberg-house-museum
Friedman, T. L., 1985. In a Jerusalem Basement, 3,000 Years of History. [Online]
Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/31/world/in-a-jerusalem-basement-3000-years-of-history.html
Leichman, A. K., 2013. The magnificent Maccabee mansion found under a home. [Online]
Available at: https://www.israel21c.org/the-magnificent-maccabee-mansion-found-under-a-home/
Siebenberg House, 2017. Siebenberg House. [Online]
Available at: https://siebenberghouse.com/