An artifact of immense significance was recently uncovered in the unlikeliest of places. It is not uncommon for everyday construction projects to turn up remnants of the past. Human civilizations, after all, have always built upon the previous one and, in doing so, sometimes run into something that harkens back to that lost time and place. One such discovery was the ruin of a dwelling believed to date back to the 6th century. While the house was an extremely important find, something within the house was unlike anything ever discovered before.
You may have never heard of the Givati Parking lot, but it has been a hotbed of archaeological activity ever since 2007 when the first discoveries were made at the site. Ever since then, the parking lot has been divulging its secrets slowly and steadily to the archaeologist and antiquity hunters that work the site and were astounded to find out more about another important place.
The Givati Parking Lot is only one of several important archaeological sites scattered across Jerusalem. The parking lot is located in the City of David, which is near East Jerusalem and just south of the Temple Mount. The site sits high on a ridge and is surrounded by valleys that were mentioned in the Bible, like the Kidron and Hinnom Valley. But the site has even more connections to the Bible.
Maybe the first place that archaeologists learned more about when digging in the Givatai Parking lot was about the City of David itself, which is called Wadi Hilweh in Arabic. The city was named for one of the most famous Kings of Israel, King David, and it was believed to have been populated only in the 18th century. It was predominantly Arab, at first, but Israelis later settled into the valley, which has a multi-layered history hiding underneath it
While the earliest digs at the City of David and Givati sites revealed important artifacts about the past settlement of the area, when researchers kept digging, which they inevitably did, they found out more about completely different time periods. One thing they discovered was that the City of David itself was located at an important historical crossroads where these disparate civilizations all interacted.
Major archaeological digs from the first ones to the present day have revealed that several peoples over the centuries populated the City of David and the surrounding valleys. Archaeologists have discovered Chalcolithic, or Copper Age pottery, as well as Byzantine and Greek inscriptions describing the old city of Jerusalem, which have helped scientists learn more about this ancient monument.
The City of David is south of the Temple Mount, aka the Al-Asqa Mosque, which is one of the most important religious sites in the world. The discoveries around the City of David and the parking lot have also revealed things previously unknown like that the Temple was in operation during the Second Temple period (516 BCE and 70 CE), which gave scholars a better understanding of the history of Judaism in the region along with more insight into this historical period.
Indeed, the Temple Mount got the most attention when scholars first started to consider digging in Jerusalem. It was a British officer, Charles Warren, who made the accidental discovery of an ancient waterway in the rock that he believed was evidence that ancient civilizations once lived in the area. He was wrong, but Warren's discovery offered a path to later archaeologists who would also find other significant evidence of these ancient peoples.
More expeditions were sent to the area after Warren discovered his eponymous shaft. The discovery was important to nail down how, when, and who, settled the area, and if those findings matched up with Biblical accounts of the city. German archaeologist Hermann Guthe took his inspiration from the Book of Nehemiah to find his ideal spot, and it paid off. He uncovered what is now known as Hezekiah's tunnel, which was man-made. Hezekiah was an ancient King of Judah, and the tunnel was proof of this controversial claim.
Hezekiah's tunnel led to a pool that is said to have very important significance for several reasons. The Pool of Siloam, as it became known, fueled the debate over where the old city of Jerusalem was actually built. Hezekiah built the pool and tunnel as a way to fend off invaders and to keep them from using the fresh-water from the Gihon Spring, which led many scholars to believe that there were more walls and fortifications to find, which was a pursuit that led to these discoveries.
After the discovery of Hezekiah's tunnel and the Pool of Shiolam (which is mentioned in the Bible), successive digs have followed the tunnels and waterways that expanded out from the pool. This has lead to the discovery of the most ancient gravesites ever found, even perhaps the resting place of King David in Jerusalem. The graves were also conclusive proof that the site was indeed the same City of David mentioned in the Bible. But the discoveries did not end there as other digs found these treasure troves.
In 2007, the Givati parking lot yielded perhaps one of its most important finds. Archaeologists discovered this ancient, charred housing that was perhaps set ablaze, which was later confirmed to be the work of invading Romans. They dug further and found evidence that the entire structure was the Royal Palace of an ancient Queen, Helena of Adiabene. Her sarcophagus was found in the 19th century, but her palace was never found. The discovery led to even more riches being found.
The discovery of Queen Abiadene's royal palace led to more discoveries related to her reign. But archaeologists were encouraged to keep digging in and around the site. They were rewarded with a monumental find, a literal treasure trove. When scientists were examining the ruin of an old administrative building from the Byzantine era, they stumbled onto a hoard of gold coins! The hoard was probably put there by Emperor Heraclius, who sealed them away as Persians were invading the city, but the hoard of gold coins was not the only treasure to be found.
After finding the cache of gold coins, which were probably minted during the period of 610 and 613, archaeologists were convinced the Givati parking lot had more buried underneath. They were right, of course, and their determination led them to discover this beautifully preserved gold earring, which they say dates back to the Ancient Greeks. The earring was not the only piece of important jewelry discovered, as scientists also found a copper ring bearing the Resurrection scene. But the most earth-shattering find was yet to come.
While not made of gold, the most significant recent find from the Givati parking lot is something that connects not only the City of David to the Bible but also gives more import to an often-overlooked King of Israel. Scientists uncovered a 2,500-years-old seal or bulla that bears the inscription “l’Natan-Melech Eved haMelech,” which translated to English means, “to Natan-Melech, the king’s servant." And who was the "King" that the seal mentioned, and why is he important?
The man mentioned on the seal is also mentioned in the Bible in the Second Book of Kings (2 Kings 23:11). He is believed to have served King Josiah, a King of Judah who was important in the transformation of Judaism to a monotheistic religion that was not based on Paganism or idolatry. Josiah was praised in his lifetime as an important reformer of the Jewish faith, although he is sometimes overlooked in history.
What were the most surprising facts about the Givati site? Did you know anything about this ancient archaeological site? Let us know what you think in the comments section below. The Givati Parking Lot will always serve as a reminder of how close we are to our past, directly on top of it, in some cases. The treasures hidden beneath the ground of the site have revealed things previously unknown about Jerusalem, Judaism, the Byzantine empire as well as the ancient Greeks. While it sits on a politically contested land, the site and the City of David can also serve as reminders of how we are all intertwined into each other's history.