In the 1990’s a photograph was found that was taken by the Palestinian Exploration Fund in the 1870’s (Palestine is what Israel was called back then). Shimon Gibson was the photo archivist for the PEF pictures that were taken. These pictures were sent back to England and published in newspapers in the 1870’s because people couldn’t wait to see pictures of the Temple Mount and the land. In March of 1874, a photo was taken by a man named Charles Frederick Tyrwhitt-Drake. After it was taken, he went to Jericho the next day and gets sick. He is so sick that a man named Claude Condor of the PEF comes to stay with Drake, but he passes away in June.
When he passes away, rather than send his last photos back to the PEF, the photos are returned to his family. Years pass, and these pictures are put in the attic of his family home. In the 1990’s, 120 years after Drake took the pictures, his family was cleaning the attic and these old photos are found. They knew what work Drake did on the Temple Mount, so they sent the photos to the PEF. Shimon Gibson gets these pictures and notices a stairway in one of them. He and David Jacobson write an article called “The Monumental Stairway” and also several articles in Biblical Archaeology Review. They believe they have found the southern stairway up to the Chel mentioned by Josephus.
Charles Wilson of the PEF charted this stairway and he wrote descriptions of it, and said the tread (what is walked on) was 7.5 feet and at the top was an ancient pavement (the Chel). In May of 1874, two months after Drake took the picture of the stairway and one month after he died, the Moslems renovated the Temple Mount and built a retaining wall that covered the stairs, and 7.5 feet from the edge of the stairs we have a line of cypress trees. These cypress trees are where the stairway ended. The ancient pavement at the top of these stairs was the Chel on the southern side.
What is really interesting about all this is Josephus wrote all this down, the rabbis in the Mishnah wrote all this down, and God raised up the PEF to write all this down and document some of the last known remnants of the Second Temple, and all of these compliment one another. Now, with the PEF measurements and photos, they can go alongside these written accounts to understand where everything was.
On December 8, 1868 there was a huge rainstorm. Charles Warren was very famous, and was working with the PEF. He was the commissioner of the London police and was in charge of the investigation into Jack the Ripper (he is mentioned in “Ripper” movies). He goes to the top of the Temple Mount and there was a cave in as a result of this rainstorm. It revealed a tunnel right below the surface of the northern side, three inches below the surface. There is a pattern to the Temple tunnels, and they are 19.3 inches across with a barrel roof. In this way, you can tell who built a tunnel, whether it was the Romans, Crusaders, Moslems or part of the Temple structure. So a Temple period tunnel was found on the north side that ran parallel to the northern edge of the Moslem platform. Warren found it full of debris, so he went in and cleaned it out and found bays and doorways.
Another tunnel, also 19.3 inches, was discovered by Charles Wilson of the PEF. That tunnel had been converted into a cistern at a later time, but who did it, nobody knows (probably the Moslems). The northern end of the tunnel was walled up and plastered over. But all the explorers believed it went to the northern edge of the Moslem platform and joined the tunnel discovered by Warren. Inside Wilson’s tunnel he found benches and the tunnel ended before going under the Dome of the Rock and the benches were on the west side. Why would there be benches in this tunnel? What was discovered was what the Mishnah described. The priests had a dorm in the Beit Ha Moked and they stayed there for one week at a time. The northwest corner of that building had a stairway called a “mesibah.” It went down to a Beit Tevilah (House of Immersion) underground, a building with a mikvah (immersion bath). It says there was a toilet down there called a “throne.” So, when the priests got up, they went down this stairway to the Beit Ha Tevilah and the toilet before they would enter into the services for the day. This would be very early in the morning, before daylight.
If they had an impurity, they could not go into the Azarah until sundown because it was a kedusha issue. The key to understanding the Temple is to understand kedusha. The priest with the impurity issue would immerse, but then exit out of the tunnel that went under the Chel on the north, then exit out through the Tadi Gate. So, we have the tunnels discovered by Warren and Wilson, exactly where they should be. Now we know exactly where the priests went. They sat down on the benches in one tunnel and then exited by going down the tunnel to the north, turned right and out through the Tadi Gate just past the tunnel
Now, by looking at the cisterns on the Temple Mount you can know exactly where the chamber called the Beit Ha Nitzotz was. This was a large building in the northeast corner of the Azarah. By combining maps by Wilson and Warren, researchers believe they have found the Beit Ha Tevilah used by the priests. How they found this was, they took a hammer and tapped on the surface and when they got an echo they knew there was a chamber under there. This hasn’t been confirmed, but that is where you would expect to find the chamber for immersion. They have found the Chel on the southern side because of Drake’s photo, and they have found the Chel on the northern side and the Dome of the Rock is dead center between the two. Measurements were made by Conrad Schick of the PEF from the edge of the Moslem platform where the tunnels met to the edge of the Moslem platform on the other side. David Jacobson, who is the textual archivist for the PEF, succeeded in getting exact measurements of the grass area that goes from the retaining wall of the Monumental Stairway to the edge of the Moslem platform. We know that the corner buildings were 100 cubits x 50 cubits. So we have 100 cubits going from south to north on the southern side. Then the Azarah was another 135 cubits, then you have another 100 cubit building on the north. So, we have 335 cubits between these two. They are able to come up with the size of the cubit used in the Azarah at 23.04 inches. They know, based upon Ezek 40.5 as well as the Mishnah Kelim 17.10, that in the Azarah they used a 6 handbreadth cubit. So, they divided the number by 6 and arrived at the size of the handbreadth, called a “tefach.”
In November of 2006, there was a meeting with key rabbi’s working on the Temple and the size of the cubit was given to the Temple Institute. Basically, there are three cubit sizes that were discovered in 2008. The Royal cubit used in the 500 cubit x 500 cubit Temple Mount is 20.67 inches. The Court of the Women used a 5 handbreadth cubit of 19.2 inches and the Azarah had a 6 handbreadth cubit of 23.04 inches. When they took the measurement between the Chel on the north and south side, the Dome of the Rock was exactly in the middle. They located where the Temple was. Now, on the other hand, if the Ernest Martin theory at the Gihon Spring is correct, the 500 cubit x 500 cubit Temple Mount would have to have a cubit of six inches in order for it to fit there, so this theory doesn’t work.
In the conclusion, we will begin to talk about the massive water system that comes onto the Temple Mount.