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Ir David, City of David, Jerusalem, Israel

What does GPR have to do with this discovery?

In December 2007 this news was broken in the Jerusalem Post, as excerpted below:

"Israeli archeologists have uncovered a monumental Second Temple structure opposite the Temple Mount that was likely Queen Helena's palace, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday.

Major 2nd Temple structure uncovered

The building was unearthed during a six-month excavation in the Givati parking lot just outside the Old City's Dung Gate, ahead of the planned expansion of the Western Wall parking lot.

The site also indicates that the ancient City of David was much larger than previously thought, said archeologist Doron Ben-Ami, who is directing the dig at the site.

The palace, which was destroyed by the Romans when they demolished the Second Temple in 70 CE, was dated to the end of the Second Temple period by pottery and stone vessels, as well as an assortment of coins from that time, Ben-Ami said."

Get a 2012 update with this fascinating video.

Thought to be Queen Helena's Palace beneath parking lot

Here's Our Story

Before the Parking Lot Excavations at Ir David
Before the parking lot excavations at Ir David
In June 2003, the Mnemotrix Team was in Jerusalem. In cooperation with Eli Shukrun, chief archaeologist for the City of David excavation project, we had the opportunity to survey a portion of the excavation areas in Ir David, or, the City of David. The results of that report can be seen in our June 2003 report.

A final question that was posed to us at the end of the day was, can you help us decide should we or shouldn't we bother to look underneath this parking lot? No one had any idea, and getting a permit to dig up this functional city parking lot would be a hassle. Would it be worth the effort? The image to the left is all anyone could see, looking at the parking lot divided by a metal partition from the existing site.

So, in the parking lot adjacent to excavation pits on the north side, we did some GPR to see what could be seen ahead of excavating this area. As described in our June 2003 report:

"What we discovered was that about 10 to 11 meters from the east boundary of our survey, we passed over something which was interrupting our signal consistently in the same area. Upon further study in post-processing, we discovered that while faint, there appeared to be a large reflection whose peak was at the precise point where we were encountering this anomaly. This could indicate something of large dimensions in the sub-surface. Or there could be some other source of interference at this point causing this phenomenon."

GPR Reflection at Ir David Excavations
In December of 2003 we had the opportunity to return to the site to see what progress had been made in the excavations, and took some photos. Below is what was in fact found around this same parking lot area once it was excavated.

Excavated Wall
Excavated area where old wall was found several meters down

Closeup of excavated wall
Closer view of remnants of wall

Thought to be Queen Helena's Palace beneath parking lot By 2007 after several years of digging, what we saw was finally identified as what is thought to be Queen Helena's Palace, a major 2nd Temple structure. So ... who knows what lies beneath the rest of the bustling city and the wide deserts beyond? Clearly GPR can greatly aid in identifying which places are worthy of more focused investigation and excavation. Good GPR helps the archaeologist get more bang for the buck!

Now, many years later, amazing things have continued to be uncovered. Watch this 2012 video for that story. You can see our part of it at about 12:27.

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