Herodian Quarter/Wohl Archaeological Museum

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Herodian Quarter/Wohl Archaeological Museum

Excavations in the 1970s exposed the Jewish Quarter's most visually interesting site: the remains of sumptuous mansions from the late Second Temple period. Preserved in the basement of a modern Jewish seminary—but entered separately—the geometrically patterned mosaic floors, still-vibrant frescoes, and costly glassware and ceramics provide a peek into the life of the wealthy in the days of Herod and Jesus. Several small plastered cisterns, with broad steps descending into them, have been identified as private mikvahs (Jewish ritual baths); holograms depict their use. Large stone water jars are just like those described in the New Testament story of the wedding at Cana (John 2). Rare stone tables resemble the dining-room furniture depicted in Roman stone reliefs found in Europe.

On the last of the site's three distinct levels is a mansion with an estimated original floor area of some 6,000 square feet. None of the upper stories has survived, but the fine, fashionable stucco work and the quality of the artifacts found here indicate an exceptional standard of living, leading some scholars to suggest this may have been the long-sought palace of the high priest. The charred ceiling beams and scorched mosaic floor and fresco at the southern end of the reception hall bear witness to the Roman torching of the neighborhood in the late summer of AD 70, exactly one month after the Temple itself had been destroyed. Allow about 45 minutes to explore the site.

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