Yesterday, Jews around the world fasted to commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples. By coincidence, a group of researchers involved in excavations around Mount Zion have just announced the discovery of evidence of the earlier of those events: specifically, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte reports:
The discovery is of a deposit including layers of ash, arrowheads dating from the period, Iron Age potsherds, lamps, and a significant piece of period jewelry—a gold and silver tassel or earring. There are also signs of a significant Iron Age structure in the associated area, but the building, beneath layers from later periods, has yet to be excavated.
Because of the site’s location, various alternative explanations for the artifacts can be eliminated, the researchers argue. “We know where the ancient fortification line ran,” noted [the dig’s co-director] Shimon Gibson, “so we know we are within the city. We know that this is not some dumping area, but the southwestern neighborhood of the Iron Age city—during the 8th century BCE the urban area extended from the City of David area to the southeast and as far as the Western Hill where we are digging.”
The ash deposits, similarly, are not conclusive evidence of the Babylonian attack in themselves, but are much more so in the context of other materials. Gibson [explained that] “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 his domestic refuse.”
By all accounts the Babylonian conquest of the city by the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was ferocious and resulted in a great loss of life, with the razing of the city and the burning of houses, and the plundering and dismantling of King Solomon’s Temple.