Room 504, destruction collapse (L5042) inside Installation 5060, looking west Fig. 21

Room 504, destruction collapse (L5042) inside Installation 5060, looking west.

JW: Likely Seismic Destruction due to the Jerusalem Quake (31 AD ± 5)

Onn et. al. (2011)

Western Wall Tunnel in Jerusalem


The Herodian Temple Mount enclosure was the most prominent architectural feature in Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period. Described in detail by Josephus, it was destroyed at the end of the first Jewish-Roman War in 70 AD. Although the Temple is gone, the large retaining walls still stand. Adjacent to the western retaining wall (Kotel (קלחת) in Hebrew), excavations have been ongoing in the tunnels north of the Western Wall Plaza - the holiest side in Judaism.

Maps and Plans Dating Charts Chronology

The finds identified in the excavation of the Great Causeway are ascribed to sixteen archaeological strata, listed below: <
Stratum Period Principal Finds Century or Year (CE)
1 Modern, post 1967 Removal of soil fill, repairs and concrete castings 20th-21st centuries, post 1967
2 Modern, Mandatory and Ottoman Cisterns, cesspits 19th-20th centuries
3 Mamluk–Ayyubid Installations 13th-15th centuries
4 Crusader Pillar in a Crusader building 12th century
5 Early Islamic Installations 9th-10th centuries
6 Umayyad Covering the top of the Secret Passage with a barrel vault and the installation of a staircase linking the Secret Passage to the Street of the Chain 7th-8th centuries
7A Late Byzantine Installations and floors 6th-7th centuries
7B Early Byzantine Installations 4th-5th centuries
8 Late Roman-Aelia Capitolina Expansion of the building E into a large structure with rooms (F), construction of another building to the west (Building G), and formation of the Secret Passage (H) between the Great Causeway (D) and Buildings F and G 3rd-4th centuries
9 Late Roman Construction of the southern line of arches in the Great Causeway (D2). Completion of the causeway structure and paving the decumanus on top of it. Construction of the latrine structure south of the Great Causeway (E) 2nd-3rd centuries
10 Late Roman Construction of the northern line of arches (D1) in the east in the east in the Great Causeway. Early 2nd century
11 Late Roman Industrial ovens and installations Late 1st-Early 2nd centuries
12 Destruction of the Second Temple Destruction layer 50 m west of the Temple Mount and further west. No damage was caused to Wilson’s Arch and the arches adjacent to it. 70 CE
13A Second Temple Ritual baths and installations 1st century, before 70 CE
13B Early Roman, Second Temple Period Renovation of Wilson’s Arch and completion of Staircase C (‘the interchange’) connected to it 1st century, before 70 CE
13C Early Roman, Second Temple Period Buildings next to Wilson’s Arch1st century, before 70 CE
14(?) Early Roman, Second Temple Period Collapse—destruction, possibly by an earthquake. Damage to Wilson’s Arch 33 CE (presumed)
15 Early Roman, Second Temple Period Expansion of the Temple Mount during Herod’s reign, Wilson’s Arch (C) 1st century BCE
16 Late Hellenistic–Early Roman Wide foundation wall (W5006, A) and a monumental public building (B) First century BCE (Hasmonean or Herodian period), before the expansion of the Temple Mount

Stratum 14 Earthquake - ~30 AD

Onn et. al. (2011) report earthquake damage to a pier under Wilson's Arch adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza by Temple Mount which they presumed to be due to an earthquake in 33 AD. The date was constrained by the endpoints of the approximate completion of the Herodian Temple rebuilding project and the destruction of the Second Temple by then Roman General Titus in 70 AD. Although the 70 AD endpoint is known with certainty, the end of the Herodian rebuilding project is not. The New Testament Gospel of John places this in ~27 AD1 however Dan Bahat (personal communication, 2018) relates than in his work on excavations on the Western Wall Tunnels, he saw evidence that the rebuilding project was never fully completed. Josephus (Book VI Ch 11 Paragraph 3) relates foundation failures during the Temple rebuilding project that were not fixed until the time of Nero2 who ruled from 54-68 ACE. Josephus (Book XX Ch 9 Paragraph 7) further states that the Temple was not “finished” until 62-64 AD3 when the Roman Procurator Albinus ruled. Although these indicate that construction work on the Temple continued for many decades, it is probable that the Temple itself was likely completed around the time stated by the New Testament Gospel of John as an apparently intact and functioning Temple is described in both the Talmud and the canonical New Testament Gospels in the years surrounding ~30 AD.


1 Gospel of John Chapter 2 Verse 20 states “They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?””. The Herodian rebuilding project is thought to have begun in ~19 BC (18th year of Herod’s reign according to Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews – Book XV – Chapter 11 – Paragraph 1) which would date this reference in John to ~27 AD. The ~27 AD date is somewhat elastic if one attempts to reconcile the chronology of Jesus' life reported in John against chronologies of the other three canonical gospels and chronologies derived from other authors – primarily Josephus.

2 "So Herod took away the old foundations, and laid others, and erected the temple upon them, being in length a hundred cubits, and in height twenty additional cubits, which [twenty], upon the sinking of their foundations fell down; and this part it was that we resolved to raise again in the days of Nero." Antiquities of The Jews Book XV Chapter 11 Paragraph 3

3 "And now it was that the temple was finished." Antiquities of the Jews Book XX Chapter 9 Paragraph 7

The relevant section is quoted from Onn et. al. (2011)
Strata 15–13. The Second Temple Period: The Late Construction Phase

The beginning of this phase (Stratum 15) is related to the expansion of the Temple Mount during Herod’s reign and it continues until the destruction of the city in 70 CE (Figs. 13 , 14 ). Extensive building activity occurred at the foot of the Temple Mount’s western wall at this time and Wilson’s Arch (Building C; see Fig. 3 ) is the principal structure belonging to this phase. The arch is part of an ‘interchange’ that is similar in its general shape to the ‘interchange’ at Robinson’s Arch. At some point in time, which cannot be dated with certainty (Stratum 14), destruction that resulted in the collapse of building stones with drafted margins (known as Herodian stones) had occurred. So far, this collapse has been documented near the Wilson’s Arch pier. The destruction can be ascribed to an earthquake that struck Jerusalem in the year 31 BCE, or more likely, in the years 30 or 33 CE; it may have been caused by some other, unknown reason. Subsequent to this earthquake event, construction was resumed and the damaged buildings were repaired (Stratum 13). The tops of the walls in Halls 21 and 23 of Building B were completed and new vaulted roofs were placed above them. Toward the end of this phase (Stratum 13), plastered installations were added, several of which have been identified as ritual baths in the vaulted spaces (C) of Wilson’s Arch ‘interchange’ and at the top of Foundation Wall A.
Regev et al (2020) performed radiocarbon dating and microarcheology on northern and southern piers under Wilson's Arch and reported radiocarbon dates of 20 BC - 20 AD for the northern pier and drainage channel and 30 - 60 AD for the southern pier (Regev et al, 2020: 9, 13). This would associate the northern pier with the original Herodian rebuilding project and the southern pier with a southerly expansion of the Bridge associated with Wilson's Arch initiated sometime after ~20-30 AD. Given the earthquake damage present under this bridge, this bridge expansion suggests it was also a repair. Repairs can be indicators of a reaction to seismic damage. Thus it seems probable but not certain that the Jerusalem Quake (31 AD ± 5) caused this seismic bridge damage.

Seismic Effects
Stratum 14 Earthquake - ~30 AD

Onn et. al. (2011) describe the collapse of building stones with drafted margins (known as Herodian stones).

Intensity Estimates
Stratum 14 Earthquake - ~30 AD

Effect Description Intensity
Displaced Walls collapse of building stones with drafted margins (known as Herodian stones) VII+
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VII (7) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224).

Notes and Further Reading

Alexander Onn, Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Rachel Bar-Nathan (2011). "Jerusalem, The Old City, Wilson’s Arch and the Great Causeway - Preliminary Report " Hadashot Arkheologiyot - Excavations and Surveys in Israel 123.

Regev, J., et al. (2020). "Radiocarbon dating and microarchaeology untangle the history of Jerusalem's Temple Mount: A view from Wilson's Arch." PloS ONE 15(6): e0233307.

Kloner A. The Dating of the Southern Decumanus of Aelia Capitolina. In: Baruch E, Greenhut Z, Faust A, editors. New Studies on Jerusalem 11. Ramat Gan; 2006. pp. 239–247.

Warren C. Underground Jerusalem. London: Richard Bentley and Son; 1876.

Bahat D. The Jerusalem Western Wall Tunnel. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society; 2013.

Uziel J, Lieberman T, Solomon A. The Excavations beneath Wilson’s Arch: New light on Roman period Jerusalem. Tel Aviv. 2019; 46: 237–266.

Shukron E. Did Herod Build the Foundations of the Western Wall? In: Meiron E, editor. City of David: Studies of Ancient Jerusalem 7. Jerusalem; 2012. pp. 13–28.

Szanton N, Hagbi M, Haber M, Uziel J, Ariel D. Monumental Building Projects in Jerusalem in the Days of Pontius Pilate: A Numismatic View from the Stepped Street in the Tyropoeon Valley. In: Steibel G, Uziel J, Cytryn-Silverman K, Re’em A, Gadot Y, editors. New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region 10. Jerusalem; 2016. pp. 99–114.

Szanton N, Lieberman T, Hagbi M. The Waters that Flow to the City: A Post-First Revolt Large Building and Its Importance for Understanding the Significance of the Tyropoeon Valley in the Development of Aelia Capitolina. In: Uziel J (Joe), Gadot Y, Zelinger Y, Peleg-Barkat O, Gutfeld O, editors. New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region. Jerusalem; 2018.

Reich R, Baruch Y. On Expansion of the Temple Mount in the Late Second Temple Period. Cathedra (Hebrew). 2017; 164: 7–24.

Szanton N, Hagbi M, Uziel J, Ariel DT. Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem: The Monumental Street from the Siloam Pool to the Temple Mount. Tel Aviv. 2019; 46: 147–166.

Western Wall Tunnels at

History of the Research - Onn et al (2011)

The Great Causeway was first documented and described in studies by scholars of the Palestine Exploration Fund in the second half of the nineteenth century (Warren C. and Conder C.R. 1884, The Survey of Western Palestine III: Jerusalem, London, pp. 193–209; Wilson C.W. 1865. Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem, London, pp. 28–29, Pl. XII; Wilson C.W. 1880. The Masonry of the Haram Wall, PEQ 13:22–30). Warren’s research included an excavation of two deep shafts to the level of virgin bedrock in the cavity beneath Wilson’s Arch. To the west of Wilson’s Arch and beneath the arches of the ‘Great Causeway’, Warren documented a monumental public hall from the time of the Second Temple, which he called the Masonic Hall (Warren C. 1876. Underground Jerusalem. London, pp. 370–371; Warren and Conder 1884:200–202). This hall was investigated again in the twentieth century (Stinespring W.F. 1967. Wilson's Arch and Masonic Hall, Summer 1966, Biblical Archaeologist 30:27–31), and once again by D. Bahat and A. Maier (Bahat D. 1994. The Western Wall Tunnels. Qadmoniot 101-102:38–48 [Hebrew]; Bahat D. 2007. Innovations in the Research of the Western Wall Tunnels. Qadmoniot 133:41–47 [Hebrew]). After 1967, the Ministry of Religious Affairs conducted work in the cavities of the Great Causeway and the Secret Passage, which have since come to be known by the popular name of ‘The Western Wall Tunnels’. This work included removing soil, as well as repairing and supporting the ancient vaults. M. Ben-Dov accompanied the work of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the Western Wall tunnels until 1985 (Ben-Dov M. 1982. The Underground Vaults West of the Western Wall. Qardom 21-23:102–105 [Hebrew]; Ben-Dov M. 1983. The Fortifications of Jerusalem: The City Walls, the Gates and the Temple Mount. Tel Aviv, p. 146 [Hebrew]). D. Bahat directed the archaeological research in the Western Wall tunnels during 1986–2007 (Bahat D. 1994; 2007; Bahat D. and Solomon A. 2002. Innovations in the Excavations of the Western Wall Tunnels. In: Judea and Samaria Research Studies, Vol. 11:175–186 [Hebrew]; Bahat D. and Solomon A. 2004. An Ancient Miqve in the Western Wall Tunnels. In E. Baruch, U. Leibner and A. Faust (eds.) New Studies on Jerusalem, Ninth Volume, Ramat Gan, pp. 83–105 [Hebrew]). Since 2007, A. Onn, on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has been responsible for the work undertaken inside the Western Wall tunnels. Since this report was submitted, other excavations were undertaken in rooms 4, 9, 10 of the Great Causeway and in room 22, under rooms 9, 10. The finds from these excavations will be published in the future.

During the twentieth century, several small-scale excavations were conducted north and south of the Great Causeway, as well as below it. Most of these excavations were related to repairs of the municipal drainage system, extending along the main roads that cross the area: Ha-Gāy Street (El-Wad) and the Street of the Chain. R.W. Hamilton and C. Jones excavated on Ha-Gāy Street, next to where the street passes beneath the vaults of the Great Causeway; they exposed the pavement of a street that has been identified with the eastern Roman–Byzantine cardo (Hamilton R.W. 1932. Street Levels in Tyropoeon Valley. QDAP 1:105–110; Hamilton R.W. 1933. Street Levels in Tyropoeon Valley, II. QDAP 2:34–40; Johns C.N. 1932. Jerusalem: Ancient Street Levels in the Tyropoeon Valley within the Walls. QDAP 1:97–100). Other remains of the eastern Roman–Byzantine cardo were recently discovered in Ohel Yizhaq and in the Western Wall Plaza, north and south of the Great Causeway (Barbe H. H. and De‘adle T. 2006. Jerusalem—Ohel Yizhaq. In E. Baruch, Z. Greenhut and A. Faust (eds.) New Studies on Jerusalem 11:19*– 29*; HA-ESI 121; Weksler-Bdolah S., Onn A. and Rosenthal-Heginbottom R. 2009. The Eastern Cardo and Wilson’s Arch in Light of the New Excavations: The Remains from the Second Temple Period and the Roman Period. In L. Di Segni, Y. Hirschfeld, R. Talgam and Y. Patrich (eds.). Man Near a Roman Arch. Studies Presented to Professor Yoram Tsafrir. Jerusalem, pp. 135–159; Weksler-Bdolah S. and Onn A. 2010. Remains of the Eastern Roman Cardo in the Western Wall Plaza. Qadmoniot 140:123–132 [Hebrew]). Street remains paved with flagstones that date to the Roman period were exposed on the Street of the Chain, above the top of the Great Causeway, (ESI 10:134–136; ESI 16:104–106). The street has been identified with the decumanus from the time of Aelia Capitolina (Tsafrir Y. 1999. The Topography and Archaeology of Aelia Capitolina. In Y. Tsafrir and S. Safrai [eds.]. The Jerusalem Book, The Roman and Byzantine Period 70–638 CE, p. 146 [Hebrew]; Kloner A. 2006. Dating the Southern Lateral Street [the Southern Decumanus] of Aelia Capitolina and Wilson’s Arch. New Studies on Jerusalem 11:239–247 [Hebrew]). Part of a monumental staircase from the Second Temple period was exposed above the top of Wilson’s Arch and above its western pier (ESI 16:104–106).

Description of the ‘Great Causeway’ - Onn et al (2011)

The arch bridge discussed in this article had been referred to in the past by various names, including ‘The Giant Viaduct’, ‘The Great Causeway’, and ‘Wilson’s Arch and the Causeway Vaults’ (Warren and Conder 1884:193–209, Wilson 1880:24, Plan 8). M. Avi-Yonah called it Wilson’s Bridge (Avi-Yonah M. 1957 [a]. The Archaeology and Topography of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. In M. Avi-Yonah [ed.]. The Jerusalem Book. The Nature, History and Development of Jerusalem from Its Earliest Times until the Present. Volume 1. The Natural Conditions and the History of the City from its Beginning until the Destruction of the Second Temple. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, pp. 305–319, Map 10: Jerusalem in the Second Temple period [Hebrew]), and that is the name the authors of this report adopted in previous reports (Onn A., Weksler-Bdolah S, and Avni G. 2009. "Wilson’s Bridge" in Light of New Excavations, Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings 2:55–63 [Hebrew]; Weksler-Bdolah, Onn and Rosenthal-Heginbottom 2009).

The length of the Great Causeway, extending between Ha-Gāy Street in the west and the western wall of the Temple Mount in the east, is c. 100 m; its overall width is 10.8–11.0 m and it passes above the Tyropoeon Valley, next to the confluence with the Transverse Valley (Nahal Ha-‘Arev). Today, the Street of the Chain, leading to the Chain Gate of the Temple Mount, is borne atop the causeway. The Great Causeway is composed of several units that were built in different time periods; these units are referred to below by the letters: A, B, C, D1 and D2 (Figs. 2, 3). The beginning of the causeway in the east is the monumental Wilson’s Arch (below: C), which is supported up against the western wall of the Temple Mount. Extending westward, the Great Causeway consists of two rows of narrower arches, or vaults: a northern row (D1) and a southern row (D2), which are adjacent to each other and founded atop buildings that date to the Second Temple period (Fig. 3). The northern (D1) and southern (D2) rows of arches are quite similar in their overall appearance; however, a significant discrepancy along their contact line, and the variable width and height of adjacent vaults indicate that they were built at different times (Fig. 4). The walls enclosing the arches to the north and south were built during the Roman period and thus created enclosed spaces inside the archways. These enclosed spaces were numbered in ascending order from west to east (below, arch/vault or room No. 1, 2, 3 etc.). The arches in the eastern part of the Great Causeway were founded on a monumental building composed of three halls, which dated to the Second Temple period (below, Building B). The arches in its western part were founded on a massive foundation wall (max. width c. 14 m), which to the best of our knowledge today, also dates to the Second Temple period (below; W5006, Building A). Remains of the eastern Roman cardo, generally oriented north–south, were exposed beneath what is known today as the westernmost arch of the Great Causeway. Large buildings (below E, F, G) that were constructed in a later period south of the Great Causeway had survived by a narrow route (H) between them, known by the name of the ‘Secret Passage’.

The current excavations (2007–2010) were conducted in the northern part of Room 3 (Vault 304), Room 5 (Vaults 502, 504), Room 6 (Vaults 602, 604), the northern part of Room 8 (Vault 804), and in Room 21, located on a lower level beneath the southern part of Room 8 (Vault 802) and below the Secret Passage. A later blocking wall (W400) that had sealed off the entrance from the Secret Passage into Room 4 of the Great Causeway (Vault 402) was breached. In addition, a cistern that was installed inside the northern vault (Vault 404) of Vault 4 was partly cleaned. Furthermore, two areas were excavated along the Secret Passage (Onn A. and Solomon A. 2008. A Window to Aelia Capitolina in the Western Wall Tunnel Excavations, Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings 1: 85–93; Onn, Weksler-Bdolah and Avni 2009; Weksler-Bdolah, Onn and Rosenthal-Heginbottom, 2009; Onn A. and Weksler-Bdolah S. 2011a. Wilson’s Arch in Light of New Excavations and Past Studies. In D. Amit, O. Peleg-Bareket and G.D. Steibel [eds.], Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings Wilson’s Arch and the Great Causeway in the Second Temple Period and in the Roman Period – In Light of New Excavations. Qadmoniot 140:109–122 [Hebrew]). 4:84–100 [Hebrew]; Onn A. and Weksler-Bdolah S. 2011b.

Western Wall Tunnels Plots and Charts

Image Description Source
Chronological Chart Regev et al (2020)
Chronological Chart - big Regev et al (2020)
Age model Regev et al (2020)
Age model - big Regev et al (2020)
Destruction Collapse Onn et. al. (2011)