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Jerusalem Archaeological Park
The City of David
Site 24: The City of David Observation Point

The observation point, located in the northeast part of the City of David, offers a broad view toward the east slope of the City of David, the village of Silwan sprawling over the opposite bank of the Kidron Valley, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Offense and the ridge of 'Government House'. To the north are the south wall of the Temple Mount and the staircase leading up to the Huldah Gates.

The wall of the City of David is exposed here and there on the east slope. Visible among the present-day houses are the excavation areas: Area G (Tour 2, Site 25), where a stepped stone structure and ancient houses were exposed, and Area E (Tour 2, Site 28), where segments of the city wall and residential quarters of the First Temple period were unearthed.

On the other bank of the Kidron Valley, the houses of the Arab village of Silwan are terraced, climbing one above the other. Visible in the rocky scarps between the houses, in particular in the scarp under the lowest row of the village houses, are square rock-cut openings. These are the mouths of burial caves from the First Temple period, hewn in what was then the rocky scarp outside the City of David, facing the city and the Temple Mount. The openings lead into rock-cut burial chambers, some with gabled ceilings. These are the remains of one of the city cemeteries from the First Temple period. Judging from the workmanship of the rock-cutting, the people interred here were wealthy and probably of noble birth. Some of the tombs are worthy of special mention.
The Tomb of Pharaoh's Daughter. This tomb is situated north (left) of the outer reaches of the village of Silwan. It is a freestanding, entirely rock-cut cubical. The upper edges of the rock cube are fashioned in the shape of an Egyptian cornice. What looks today like the flat roof of the tomb was originally the base of a pyramid, which has been destroyed over the centuries. An opening cut in the façade of the tomb leads into the burial chamber. Remains of two letters in ancient Hebrew script were once visible on the left doorjamb; these letters supported the dating of the tomb to the late First Temple period. The name 'Tomb of Pharaoh's Daughter' is the popular designation of the tomb among the Arab villagers.
The Tomb of '...yahu who is over the house'. In 1870 an inscription in ancient Hebrew script was discovered on a flat surface on the façade of a rock-cut tomb among the houses of the village of Silwan. Charles Clermont-Ganneau, French diplomat and scholar, who also worked for the British Palestine Exploration Fund and documented many archaeological discoveries in Jerusalem, bought the inscription from the owner, cut it out of the rock and transferred it to the British Museum in London, where it is still kept. The inscription reads: "This [is the tomb of ...] yahu, Royal Steward. There is no silver and gold here / [but] rather [his bones] and the bones of his handmaiden with him. Cursed be the man who / should open this."

Though the deceased's full name is missing (only the suffix has been preserved), the title indicates that he was a senior official at the court of the king of Judah. The title 'who is over the house' (meaning the Royal Steward) occurs in the Bible (for example, 2 Kings 18:18). Interestingly enough, one such official, whose name was Shebna (perhaps, in full, Shebnayahu), was upbraided by the prophet Isaiah for having hewn his tomb in a place not intended for him, as we read: "...Go, get thee unto this steward, Even unto Shebna, who is over the house: What hast thou here, and whom hast thou here, That thou hast hewed thee out here a sepulchre, Thou that hewest thee out a sepulchre on high, And gravest a habitation for thyself in the rock?" (Isaiah 22:15–16).

Another inscription, cut in the tomb façade, reads: 'a room behind the cave'.

Some of the ancient First Temple period tombs were reused in the Byzantine period by hermit monks, evidenced by the crosses and Greek inscriptions incised on the tombs' walls.

A stone structure behind a cluster of trees is clearly visible on the skyline above the houses of Silwan. This is the Benedictine monastery of St. Abraham on the south summit of the Mount of Olives, which has been identified with the 'Mount of Offense' (2 Kings 23:13).

Toward the south one can see the confluence of the Kidron Valley with the Tyropoeon Valley; beyond that, on the southern horizon, is the 'Mount of Evil Counsel' (Jabal Mukabbir), surmounted by a cluster of trees around the building serving as the UN Supervision Organization headquarters. This was formerly the seat of the High Commissioner during the British Mandate in Palestine, known as 'Government House'.

From the City of David Observation Point, a path continues southward, along the top of the slope descending to the Kidron Valley.
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