The Ancient Upper Room and Tomb of David

DSCN6300While in Jerusalem, I cannot help but to repeatedly visit the structure about which I have extensively written. The above photograph displays with amazing clarity the long history of the building we today identify as the Upper Room of the Last Supper and the Tomb of King David. That history is physically present in the form of the building’s construction components.

The wall you see is the east wall, the only wall completely visible today. Notice the variety of stones that have been used over the centuries to keep the wall intact. Together, they represent the building from its earliest incarnation up to the sixteenth century. At the bottom right, you can see the large square blocks (called ashlars) reaching upward like a triangle. These are the building’s oldest structural elements. The question of course is how old.

But determining the age of the stones is not the end of the story. The time at which these ashlars were quarried is not necessarily the same as the time they were fashioned into this building. Primarily due to their irregular sizes, scholars have determined that these ashlars were not cut specifically for this building but for another, earlier structure. Later, possibly because the original building lay in ruins, the ashlars were re-used to make the building we now call the Upper Room and Tomb of David.

Other, later, elements in this wall likely date from the Byzantine, Crusader, and Ottoman periods successively. As historians, our task is to bring together all of the evidence for the origin of this building and attempt to reveal its complex history. But more work needs to be done. All that is required is funding and the necessary permission to further examine the building’s structural components and the surrounding grounds. With each successive step, the mystery is further unraveled.

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