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The Disputed City of David


Citadel Gardens, Jerusalem

Citadel Gardens, Jerusalem

Joe Goldberg
Religious capital of three of the most widely-held religions, and hence the site of one of the most famous and long-standing land disputes in the history of humankind, Jerusalem as an archaeological resource was first investigated during the early part of the 19th century. As is true with most of human historical evidence, archaeological inspection of the city reveals evidence that both supports and contradicts its written records. But what the evidence clearly shows is a city in struggle.

History of Jerusalem

The history of Jerusalem is a series of conquests and power struggles. Archaeology indicates that the city was first inhabited beginning during the 4th millenium BC, in the part of Jerusalem known as the City of David, and near the only perennial stream there, the Gihon. The first evidence of an urban settlement--in the shape of fortification walls--dates from the 18th century BC, roughly corresponding to the Middle Bronze Age. It is also at this time that Jerusalem is mentioned in the Egyptian "execration" texts when the Egyptians ruled Canaan. These are called the execration texts, because they contained a list of places that Egyptians wanted bad things to happen to.

Jerusalem in the Late Bronze Age

Expansion of Jerusalem continued over the next few centuries, as according to history the city grew westward to Mount Zion by 8th century BC. In 586 BC, invasion of the city halted its expansion--if temporarily. By the first century BC, Jerusalem was prosperous, with a wealthy upper class. In AD 70, the city was burned by the invading Romans; the emperor Hadrian built his Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of the old city in AD 130. The Byzantine period (AD 330-640) saw extensive construction of Christian churches. In the late 7th century, the city was conquered again by the Arabs; and again in the 11th century AD by the Crusaders, and again in in the 12th century by Saladin.

To this day, the city of Jerusalem continues to be a land of dispute. And once again, Jerusalem's past, as seen through the eyes of archaeologist and historian, is echoed again through its ancient streets.

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