Second Temple Archaeology

Steven H. Werlin

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Second Temple Archaeology


The Second Temple period stretched from the end of the Babylonian Exile in 539 bce to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in 70 ce. The designation refers to the Jewish temple in Jerusalem dedicated to Yahweh, the God of Israel, constructed on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, an area known today as the Temple Mount, or Haram esh-Sharif. As an area of study, “Second Temple” typically refers to the Jewish people, along with all their religious, social, political, economic, and cultural aspects, during this six-century period. While archaeology is more often categorized in terms of place or time, “Second Temple archaeology” focuses instead on a people, and, therefore, it includes sites and remains not only from ancient Palestine (modern Israel, Palestine, and Jordan), but also from areas throughout the Mediterranean and Near East. Because the topic examines the physical remains of a people and their culture, Second Temple archaeology overlaps substantially with textual, literary, and historical studies of Judaism and early Christianity. The archaeology of the Second Temple period has scholarly roots in studies both of early Judaism and Christianity, a fact reflected in the journals and edited volumes in which many studies appear. That said, direct archaeological evidence for the earliest Christians (i.e., Jesus of Nazareth and his followers) is essentially nonexistent, and so most archaeologists of early Christianity tend to focus on the context of Jesus’ world, particularly in Galilee. In addition to overlapping with studies of early Judaism and Christianity, Second Temple archaeology is occasionally considered a subset of either classical archaeology, ancient Near Eastern archaeology, or both. This is largely due to the geographic and temporal overlapping of the topic. Geographically, ancient Palestine sits at the crossroads of the classical world (i.e., the Mediterranean basin) and the ancient Near Eastern world (i.e., the modern Middle East, including ancient Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Arabia). Temporally, the Second Temple period overlaps the late Iron Age or Persian period (typically considered the limit of ancient Near Eastern studies) and the classical, Hellenistic, and Early Roman periods (usually considered the beginning of classical studies). The multiple influences evident in the physical remains of the Second Temple period—in areas such as art, architecture, and epigraphy—are reflected in the multiple fields of research represented by the scholarship produced.

Article.  13313 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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