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Remains of shattered artifacts found in Jerusalem caused by earthquake mentioned in the Bible. Source: Eliyahu Yanai / City of David

Evidence of Earthquake Recorded in the Bible Found at City of David

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While excavating at the controversial City of David National Park, archaeologists unearthed a layer of shattered vessels, damaged when an ancient building collapsed on top of them. For the first time ever, archaeologists believe they have found evidence in Jerusalem of an earthquake mentioned in the Bible. References to the earthquake in the Bible prove that this natural disaster left a mark on collective memory almost 2,800 years ago.

The excavation area where the earthquake evidence cited in the Bible was found within the city of David. (Joe Uziel / Israel Antiquities Authority)

The excavation area where the earthquake evidence cited in the Bible was found within the city of David. (Joe Uziel / Israel Antiquities Authority )

Finding a Dramatic Layer of Destruction

For the last 150 years, the treasures buried at the City of David National Park have fascinated archaeologists. While excavating in what NBC News called “the most high-profile and politically contentious excavation in the Holy Land ,” researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority recently discovered a selection of shattered vessels which sparked their curiosity.

In an article published in The Jerusalem Post , excavation directors Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf explained that this “dramatic layer of destruction” led them to question the cause. The signs of destruction unearthed in the remains of a building were made up of a series of broken artifacts dated to the 8th century BC, including storage containers, cooking utensils, bowls and lamps, which were destroyed when a building collapsed on top of them.

“When we excavated the structure and uncovered an 8th century BCE layer of destruction, we were very surprised, because we know that Jerusalem continued to exist in succession until the Babylonian destruction, which occurred about 200 years later,” highlighted Uziel and Chalaf in a Israel Antiquities Authority statement published on Facebook. The remains were well-preserved as “it appears that residents of the area built again on top of the ruins left by the earthquake, preserving its traces,” adds The Jerusalem Post .

The storage vessels discovered at the City of David after restoration. (Dafna Gazit / Israel Antiquities Authority )

Joining the Dots: Earthquakes in the Bible

After the recent discovery at the City of David, the archaeologists began to search for references to earthquakes in the Bible. Earthquakes in the Levant are nothing new and historical archives are filled with reports of their occurrence over the last 3,000 years. A report published in the Journal of Seismology compiled a list of 71 reliable earthquakes that affected Israel.

The search by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority led them to the discovery of references in the Book of Amos and the Book of Zechariah, both of which mention an earthquake at a time which coincides with the excavated remains. For example, the first verse of the book of Amos reads: “The words of Amos, a sheep breeder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel in the reigns of Kings Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

Meanwhile, the Book of Zechariah, which was written about 200 years later, also remembers the event. “And the Valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as it was stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.” The reign of Uzziah of Judah has been dated to the 8th century BC.

If their conclusions are true, this would make this recent find the first evidence of the earthquake in Jerusalem, a rare feat indeed. Meanwhile, according to International Geology Review , vestiges of this dramatic natural disaster have been discovered at other sites in Israel and Jordan, including Hazor, Deir ‘Alia, Gezer, Lachish, Tell Judeideh, and ‘En Haseva. Experts believe it was of a magnitude between 7.8 and 8.2.

Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf from the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Yani Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority)

Dr. Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf from the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Yani Berman / Israel Antiquities Authority )

Controversy at City of David National Park

The City of David is a site of unique importance. Said to have been founded by King David when he left Hebron and established the unified capital for the tribes of Israel, his son King Solomon then built the First Temple next-door on Mount Moriah. Now one of the most excavated sites in the Holy Land (an area covering modern-day Israel, Palestine and parts of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) the biblical City of David was originally “found” in an 1867 expedition led by Charles Warren, with the aim of bringing back treasure for the British Museum.

The “lost city of Jerusalem” was protected underground for centuries under layers of sand and mud after its destruction by the Romans. Now known as the City of David, the site covers what archaeologists believe to be the original Bronze and Iron Age settlement of Jerusalem, nowadays the mainly Palestinian neighborhood known as Silwan in East Jerusalem found just outside of the Old City of Jerusalem. The excavations are contentious to the extreme, as the site was captured by Israel from the Palestinians in 1967.

From 1997 the archaeological site was managed by the Ir David Foundation, also known as Elad or El’ad, a non-profit organization which NBC News reported to be “affiliated with the Israeli settlement movement.” The digs taking place at the City of David site, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, have been criticized for focusing on Jewish history, at the expense of Muslim and Christian remains, with Rafi Greenberg in Ethics in Action , famously criticizing the “questionable field practice” and “overtly skewed interpretations of the past” which have been hijacked for political ends.

Some of the archaeological highlights of the City of David National Park include Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel , the Pool of Siloam, the Second Temple-era Acra, and even the remains of what some archaeologists controversially claim is the original palace of King David. The huge investment and attention generated at the site now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, a million in 2019 according to a City of David official video published on YouTube.

Top image: Remains of shattered artifacts found in Jerusalem caused by earthquake mentioned in the Bible. Source: Eliyahu Yanai / City of David

By Cecilia Bogaard

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