The Davidson Center offers a rare opportunity to explore and study the most significant archaeological site in this country by means of exhibitions and illustrations describing Jerusalem's main episodes. The center serves as an extension of the Archaeological Park, highlighting its main features.
The Exhibition is laid out on three floors: the Entrance Floor, the Mezzanine Floor and the Ground Floor. Access between the floors is afforded by moderate ramps. The visitor is here invited to embark on a 60-minute journey through Second-Temple-period Jerusalem.
The Entrance Gallery enhances the central position of Jerusalem. This concept, which is a fundamental concept of the monotheistic faiths, is expressed both verbally and visually. Opposite the entrance is a sixteenth century CE illustrated vision of the world, depicting Jerusalem in the center of the three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe. This illustration carries an echo of the renowned quotation from the Midrash: "The land of Israel sits at the center of the world; Jerusalem is in the center of the land of Israel; the sanctuary is in the center of Jerusalem; the temple building is in the center of the sanctuary; the ark is in the center of the temple building; and the foundation stone out of which the world was founded is before the temple building" (Midrash Tanhuma 7:10).
While descending the ramp toward the Exhibition Gallery, the visitor views the name Jerusalem written in many tongues and scripts against a background of an ancient stone wall. The name Jerusalem appears as early as the Egyptian Execration texts (20th-19th centuries BCE), indicating the city's importance during that period. The Akkadian version of Jerusalem appears in the El-Amarna letters, discovered in the royal archives of the Egyptian king Amenhotep III (14th century BCE) and in the Sennacherib inscriptions. Jerusalem comprises two west-Semitic elements: yrw and Slm, probably meaning: "Foundation of [the God] Shalem". This deity is known from Ugarit, where a mythological text mentions two "beautiful and gracious gods" Shahar (Dawn) and Shalim (Twilight). A shorter form of the name, Salem, occurs in Genesis14, 18 and Psalms 76, 3.
The Exhibition Gallery surveys four of the main periods represented in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park: the Second Temple, the Roman, the Byzantine and the Islamic periods.
The Second Temple Period
The 'Jerusalem Bowls'
. A unique group of exceptionally fine vessels, decorated with red and black floral motives, were found in the dwellings of the Upper City of Jerusalem, especially in water cisterns. These bowls have been found largely in Jerusalem.
Chalk (Stone) Vessels. The stone industry of the Second Temple period is a unique phenomenon in the material culture of Israel throughout its history. Stone vessels made their first appearance in the Galilee and in Judea, and mainly in Jerusalem, and largely disappeared after the destruction of the Second Temple. Some of these vessels exhibit highly developed technology, often distinguished by the use of a lathe.
The emergence of this industry was, undoubtedly, the result of the abundance of soft stone (chalk) in the vicinity of Jerusalem. This stone is easily workable, and therefore it was widely available and inexpensive. Furthermore, it filled a need that had to do with the Jewish ritual law (Halacha), according to which stone - as opposed to pottery - does not become ritually unclean (tame). This was a major factor in a strictly observant world, where a high level of purity was called for.
Most of the stone vessels - bowls, plates and cups - are handleless and undecorated, accounting for easier and cheaper production. The cups on display are often referred to as 'measuring cups'. Despite the large number of these cups, no conformity in measurement could be established.
Stone Weights. Weights made of stone were in use throughout ancient times. The administrator ("agronomos") in charge of markets was held responsible for the accuracy of the weights. A few of the stone weights recovered in the excavations are incised with Greek inscriptions, and two are inscribed in Hebrew with their owners' names: Bar Kathros and Tuviya.
The Ritual Bath (Miqveh). Upon entering the Temple Mount and the Temple courts in the Second Temple period, Jews had to be ritually pure, as prescribed in the Mishna (Kelim 1:8-9). In most cases purification could be achieved by bathing in rainwater collected in a ritual bath (miqveh, plural: miqva'ot). According to the Jewish law (Halakha), a miqveh must be attached to the ground, that is, not a pre-cast basin or bath resting on the ground; it must be filled with freely-flowing rainwater, not drawn water; the volume of water should be at least forty se'ah (500-1,000 litres); and the installation must be plastered to ensure that it is watertight.
Most miqva'ot were built in cellars; though this was not required by the Halakha, it assured privacy, as ritual immersion was performed in the nude. Moreover, darkness preserves the quality of the water, as prolonged exposure to sunlight promotes the growth of algae. Miqva'ot, like other water installations of the Second Temple period, were lined with a watertight plaster containing an admixture of ashes, which gave it its grayish color.
A flight of steps led down to the water. In many miqva'ot efforts were made to separate those going down to bathe, who were still impure, from those already cleansed, on their way up and out (for many kinds of impurity are transferred by mere contact). This was done by building a low parapet down the middle of the staircase, or by providing two openings.
The Roman Period
The Tenth Legion Stamps
. Following the destruction of the temple, the city of Jerusalem was occupied by the Tenth Roman Legion (Fretensis). The Tenth Legion camped in Jerusalem for some two centuries until transferring to Elat toward the end of the 3rd century CE. During times of peace, the soldiers were engaged in projects, both of military and civil character, such as road paving and the construction of public buildings, water systems and bathhouses. An example of a major undertaking is the earthenware factory, located in today's Jerusalem's International Convention Center (Binyane Ha-Umma). This factory produced construction materials, such as ceramic roof tiles and pipes, remains of which bear the stamps of the Legion - LEG-X-FRE - and its symbols: a boar and a ship.
The Byzantine Period
. The Byzantine-period dwellings were of a roughly uniform plan, comprising rooms built around a central courtyard divided by rows of columns. The dwellings were built of fieldstones and reused ashlars. These houses had two stories: a ground floor and a basement; the steps connecting the two stories were located in a secondary wing of the courtyard. The entrance was through the ground floor or the courtyard. The houses were roofed by means of wooden beams, which were supported by an arch dividing the room into two; the floors were of beaten earth or stone slabs. Underground hewn cisterns supplied water. These houses were apparently carefully evacuated, as very few finds were recovered from within.
The Early Islamic Period
The everyday life in the administrative center of the Umayyad period is attested by the many pottery, glass and metal vessels found at the site. These vessels point to a technological and typological continuity from the Byzantine period aside a new repertoire of vessels. Some of the findings are decorated with geometrical or floral designs, as well as with the Arabic word for God, Allah.
The excavations within the Umayyad palaces uncovered vast numbers of architectural elements, adorned with reliefs or with frescoes. The designs are always of geometrical or floral nature, indicating the strict observance of the Muslim law prohibiting the portrayal of humans or of animals. The public nature of these building is evident by the numerous Arab inscriptions written in black ink on marble slab stones.
The History of Archaeology. A documentary film (5 minutes long) presents the story of 150 years of excavations in the precincts of the Archaeological Park, beginning with the excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund in the second half of the nineteenth century, and ending with the ongoing excavations at the site. The story is narrated by IAA excavator of the site, Dr Ronny Reich.
The Theater Gallery. This gallery houses a unique high-definition 10 minute digital video (the first available in Israel), describing Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. This video includes footage from the Virtual Reconstruction Model of the Temple Mount.
The Arched Gallery. The center's interactive study-room is located on the ground floor. Here visitors will be able to explore the virtual reconstruction model of the Herodian Temple Mount, using a powerful Silicon Graphics Onyx2 InfiniteReality3 super computer and a high-resolution projection system. This floor also has a scale model of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park in bronze. A time line assists the visitor in understanding the chronology and sequence of events as exhibited in the model.
The upper floor is accessed by a flight of stairs or by elevator. It is glass-enclosed, overlooking the western and southern walls of the Temple Mount. This floor accommodates the center's informative web site stations, as well as a cafeteria, restrooms and a souvenir shop. An opening in the floor in the southern part of the room enables the visitors a glimpse of the model of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park from above.