Running along the southern wall was a stepped walkway, 6.4 m (21 ft) wide, with stores built under it. In front of this was a large plaza, with steps leading to the two gates in this wall.
This walkway started 11.2 m (37 ft) away from the western corner, where two flights of stairs, each one having three steps, the top one of each being a landing, have been found. This walkway was built on top of rooms with vaulted roofs, these rooms most probably were stores, and might have had doors to each other. When the Romans destroyed Yerushalayim, they filled these stores up with wood, and lit them on fire. (The burning of this area of Yerushalayim is mentioned by Josephus, Wars 6:6:3.) The Har Habayis is mostly built from limestone, which crumbles and turns into powder when exposed to very hot temperatures (This is how lime (סיד) is made). Before these stores and the walkway totally collapsed from the heat, the fire left a burnt imprint on the Har Habayis wall, which was the back wall of these rooms, in the shape of the interior of these stores. These burnt marks have enabled us to figure out how the stores looked. (When the stones are examined closely, you can see that a semicircular line was scratched into the wall to help the builders build these vaults correctly.)
The first mark is 30 m (98 ft) away from the southwest corner. The height of this arch indicates that there were more stairs leading up to the walkway. 83 m (272 ft) away from the southwest corner, another two burnt marks can be seen. The top of these burnt arch marks is only 60 cm (2 ft) higher than the single one, showing that the walkway only rose slightly in between these arches. There must have been a flight of stairs after these arches to make the street rise to the level it is at by the double gate stairway. Running along the front wall of these stores was a curb, to help prevent water from running into the stores.
In front of these was a large plaza, for many Yidden to gather in on their way to the Beis Hamikdash. The paving stones have been found for a width of 9 m (30 ft) away from the wall, showing that the plaza was at least that wide. At a distance of 11 m (36 ft) away from the curb, there was a thick foundation wall, 3 m (9 ft) thick, under the plaza. Considering the amount of Yidden who would come to the Beis Hamikdash, and being that the main entrances were in the south, it has been proposed that this was the middle foundation wall of the plaza. This would mean that the total width of the plaza was 25 m (81 ft).
In front of the steps leading to the double gate, at a distance of 30 m (100 ft) away from them, another foundation wall was found. This means that in front of these steps, the plaza was even wider, to accommodate the many Yidden coming here. To the east of this, the plaza got narrower again, although it is not known how wide it was. This plaza sloped slightly up from the western side until the double gate staircase, and then sloped gently down to the east.
(In a future post I will write about the eastern part of the walkway, and the burnt marks that help us figure out exactly how it was.)
Ben-Dov, Meir. In the Shadow of the Temple: The Discovery of Ancient Jerusalem. Israel: Harper & Row, 1985.
Mazar, Benjamin. “The Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem Near the Temple Mount — Second Preliminary Report, 1969—70 Seasons / החפירות הארכיאולוגיות ליד הר-הבית: סקירה שנייה, עונות תשכ"ט—תש"ל.” Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies / ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה י (1971): 1–34. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23619371.
Ritmeyer, Leen. The Quest: Revealing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel: Carta, 2006.
I have added a new video of the Lishkos on the northern side of the first Beis Hamikdash..
My name is Mendel Lewis.
Hashem said to Yechezkel, "Its reading in the Torah is as great as its building. Go and say it to them, and they will occupy themselves to read the form of it in the Torah. And in reward for its reading, that they occupy themselves to read about it, I count it for them as if they were occupied with the building of it. (Tanchuma tzav 14)