Ancient Ivory Highlights the Wealth of First Temple Jerusalem

September 6, 2022 | Amanda Borschel-Dan
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In 2007, an attempt to build a parking lot just outside the old city of Jerusalem exposed an ancient structure along with a vast trove of historical artifacts, which are still being sifted and studied. Most recently, archaeologists found some 1,500 ivory fragments. Amanda Borschel-Dan explains their significance:

The ivory pieces, which would have made up decorative inlays for furniture or a door, were discovered in a monumental building that was in use when Jerusalem was at the height of its power (the 8th and 7th centuries BCE) and was likely razed during the Babylonian conquest of 586 BCE.

Ivory appears in the Bible in numerous locations, referring to extreme opulence, such as King Solomon’s “large ivory throne” (1Kings 10:18), King Ahab’s palace adorned with ivory (1Kings 22:39), and firebrand warnings from the prophet Amos to stop lolling on ivory-inlayed beds and couches (Amos 6:4).

Other ancient capitals that are known for their decorative ivory finds include Nimrud, the capital of Assyria, and Samaria, the capital of the [northern] Israelite kingdom, according to the excavation directors. . . . “Now, for the first time, Jerusalem joins these capitals,” [the archaeologists explained.] “We were already aware of Jerusalem’s importance and centrality in the region in the First Temple period, but the new finds illustrate how important it was and places it in the same league as the capitals of Assyria and Israel. The discovery of the ivories is a step forward in understanding the political and economic status of the city as part of global administration and economy.”

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