Home Culture Museum offers taste of first century life in Jerusalem

Museum offers taste of first century life in Jerusalem

by Touchpoint Israel

The Wohl Museum of Archeology preserves six compound houses from the Second Temple era. These houses overlooked the Temple in Jerusalem, and were destroyed along with it in 70 AD. They are the largest and most significant 2nd Temple ruins that have been discovered in Jerusalem. Today, these houses are known as the Herodian Quarter. They are located in the underground museum in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.   

Who Lived Here?

The houses found in the Herodian Quarter were likely home to Jewish priests and their families. The priests worked in the Temple and were a part of the aristocratic class. The homes’ Greco-Roman architecture and the luxurious belongings found show that the men and families living there were wealthy compared to others at that time.

What was Found?

These houses were destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 along with the 2nd Temple. The second floors of the Herodian homes were completely burned, leaving behind only ashes. The first floors and their stone structures withstood the fire and stand as museum exhibits today.

What survived sufficiently proves the families’ wealthy lifestyles. Multiple storage rooms, water reservoirs, cooking ovens, and Mikves (Jewish ritual baths) were found in the housing complex. Beautiful mosaics decorate the floors and paintings color the walls.

A unique sketch of the Temple’s Menorah and numerous stone utensils were found on site. These finds support the evidence that the priestly caste lived in these homes; it was the priests’ duty to keep the Menorah lit, and stone vessels were used for purity’s sake.

When was it Found?

The Herodian Quarter was discovered after the Six Day War in 1967. That area of the Old City was being rebuilt by the Jews who reclaimed it. They found the ruins during their construction. Today, the Wohl Museum is underground, since houses were being built over it.

The Significance of the Courtyard

There is a courtyard in the center of the six-house complex. This courtyard is significant because the gospels mention Peter following Jesus “as far as the courtyard of the high priest” (Matthew 26:58) before he denied Him three times. Together with the archeological findings at the Herodian Quarter, we can conclude that Peter betrayed Jesus either in this courtyard or in one like it.

Originally posted at Sar-el Tours.

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