What Did the Second Temple’s Floor Look Like?

During his reign, which lasted from 37 to 4 BCE, King Herod undertook major renovations of the Temple Mount and the Temple itself. Recent archaeological findings suggest that these included repaving the floors with a kind of polished stone tile known as opus sectile. Frankie Snyder, Gabriel Barkay, and Zachi Dvira write:

Opus sectile—Latin for “cut work”—is a technique for paving floors and walls in geometric patterns or figurative scenes using meticulously cut and polished polychrome stone tiles. These tiles were crafted and laid with such precision that there was hardly space to insert a knife-blade between them. Opus sectile floors were more prestigious than mosaic ones and were typically used in more important areas of buildings. Along with using frescoed walls, stucco decorations and elegantly carved columns, Herod introduced this paving technique to Israel to decorate many of his palaces, including Masada, Jericho, Herodium, and Cypros.

The 1st-century-CE Jewish historian Flavius Josephus comments about the pavements [on] the Temple Mount [thus], “The open courtyard was from end to end variegated with paving of all manner of stones.” . . . Continued research has allowed [archaeologists] to distinguish the time period in which many of the recovered opus sectile tiles were crafted and mathematically to reconstruct possible floor patterns. . . .

A key characteristic of Herodian tiles is their size, which is based on the Roman foot, 11.6 inches. In the floor patterns, each tile was surrounded by tiles of contrasting colors. Dark tiles were frequently made from bituminous chalk quarried locally just northwest of the Dead Sea, around Nebi Musa. Some of the contrasting light-colored tiles were made from local limestone and calcite-alabaster, while others were made of imported alabaster, africano, breccia coralline, breccia di Aleppo, breccia di Settebasi, giallo antico, pavonazzetto, and portasanta from Greece, Asia Minor, Tunisia, and Egypt.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Archaeology, Herod, History & Ideas, Josephus, Second Temple

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority