While it may be a while before we find evidence of people being turned to pillars of salt, or that one guy gathered every animal two by two on his massive boat, it seems one event from the Bible did actually happen.
The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple is one of the Old Testament’s most significant events.
The siege of the city, by Babylonian forces, ended around 587 BCE, and is mentioned multiple times in the Bible. During the destruction of the temple, it was said most of the population of the Kingdom of Judah was killed, while many others were taken to Babylon as prisoners.
The prisoners’ exile lasted almost 50 years, and the destruction of the temple is commemorated to this day by the fast of Tisha B’av, which is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar.
While the Bible is not always the most reliable documentation of history, recent archaeological digging has uncovered items which suggest the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of King Solomon’s Temple did take place, though the extent to which it happened may have been exaggerated slightly.
Researchers on Mount Zion, a hill located just outside the walls of the Old City in Jerusalem, has uncovered ash from the fires that burned during the siege, as well as arrows from the invading forces, and an earring believed to have been left behind in the panic.
In 2017, researchers also found smashed pottery under layers of ash in the same area. Further examination of these artifacts has now confirmed it came from the destruction of the city.
According to IFLScience, the ash from the fires contained arrowheads of the Scythian-style, which were known to be used by Babylonians. While pieces of broken pots, lamps and an earring made of gold and silver were also found.
In a statement on EurekAlert, Dr Shimon Gibson, professor of history at the University of North Carolina and co-director of the Mount Zion Archaeological Project, said:
For archaeologists, an ashen layer can mean a number of different things. It could be ashy deposits removed from ovens; or it could be localized burning of garbage. However, 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. Nobody abandons golden jewelry and nobody has arrowheads in their domestic refuse.
The arrowheads are known as ‘Scythian arrowheads’ and have been found at other archaeological conflict sites from the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. 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.
Gibson speculated the excavation was of one of the ‘Great Man’s houses’, mentioned in the second book of Kings, as ‘this spot would have been at an ideal location’, and the rare jewellery, a ‘unique find’, is ‘an indication of the wealth of the inhabitants’.
The archaeological team are continuing to excavate the site in the hope of finding more biblical-era items.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.