Second Temple-era mikveh discovered under Al-Aqsa mosque
Al-Aqsa mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 1927 • As it was being rebuilt, the British archaeologist Robert Hamilton documented the excavation of its foundations • He hid away the findings that the waqf found inconvenient • Today, thousands of findings, including a seal with the inscription “From Gibeon to the king” unearthed by Dr. Gabi Barkai and Zachi Dvira, shed light on the Temple Mount’s Jewish period • A peek back into history.
In 1927, an earthquake struck Jerusalem, killing 130 people, wounding 450 and destroying or heavily damaging about 300 buildings, including Al-Aqsa mosque. The Muslim waqf, led by Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini, began restoring the mosque. Robert Hamilton, the director of the antiquities department during the Mandatory period in pre-state Israel, spotted an opportunity in the midst of disaster.
Hamilton took advantage of this unexpected window of opportunity to reach an agreement with the waqf that would allow archaeological investigation on the Temple Mount, for the first time ever, in the area where the mosque had collapsed. Hamilton documented the reconstruction work done by the waqf, photographed, sketched, excavated, analyzed and wrote about a series of findings, some of them surprising.