The Building Stones of Jerusalem
The building stone that gives Jerusalem its character today is locally quarried limestone. Flavius Josephus, the historian of the Jewish Wars, apparently exaggerated when he wrote about the dazzling white marble facade of Herod's Temple. Its exterior may have been whitewashed or burnished plaster because there is no local marble or archeological evidence of the use of marble on a monumental scale.
Local Arabic usage informally recognizes seven grades of building stone. They are quarried from distinct beds of the Mount Scopus and Judea Groups. In descending stratigraphic order, as shown in Table 2-1, these are:
Nari is a harder crust formed on soft surface chalk or marl of the Mount Scopus Group (Senonian), which overlies more resistant limestone beds of the Judea Group. Nari is used as a source of lime today, but its friability or ease of cutting made it the favorite material for ashlars or dressed building stones during the tenth and ninth centuries BC.
Kakula is white or bituminous chalky limestone from the Mount Scopus Group. It is easily carved or turned and was used in biblical times for ossuaries, or receptacles for the bones of the dead, and ritually pure stone vessels. Although porous and friable, its low density made kakula useful for roofing.
Archeologist Yitzhak Magen has excavated a cave at Hizma, north of Jerusalem, which contains the remains of a workshop for stone vessels, and he has reconstructed the techniques that artisans used to shape vessels such as the six klal or stone water jars of Cana (John 2:6).
3. Mizzi hilu
Mizzi hilu ("sweet") is a hard, ledge-forming lithographic limestone member of the Judea Group (Turonian), which workers customarily leave in place as the roof of a cave after quarrying the underlying meleke.
Meleke ("queen") is the preferred, moderately hard, crystalline limestone member of the Judea Group (Turonian), which is easily quarried for building stone. Its working properties and attractive golden color make it the preferred building stone today. Ashlars in the Wailing Wall XE "Wailing Wall:source of ashlars" , the outer retaining wall of the extended Herodian Temple platform, were apparently cut from meleke in quarries near Bezetha.
5. Mizzi ahmar
Mizzi ahmar ("red") is a reddish dolomitic limestone member of the Kefar Veradim Formation (Cenomanian) that the Mamelukes used in decorative stonework. It underlies the meleke.
6. Mizzi Yahudi
Mizzi yahudi ("Jewish") is a dolomitic limestone member of the Kefar Veradim Formation (Cenomanian).
7. Dir yassini
Dir yassini is a platy reddish dolomitic limestone member of the Kefar Sha'ul Formation. Quarrying produces thin slabs that are used for floors and roofs.
8. Bender also mentions the mizzi ahdar or "greenish limestone."
Bender, Friedrich, 1974. Geology of Jordan. Berlin: Gebrüder Borntrager; 95, 167.
Horowitz, op. cit., 168.
Magen, Yitzhak, 1998. Ancient Israel's Stone Age: Purity in Second Temple times. Biblical Archeology Review; 24-5: 46-52.
Shiloh, Yigal, & Aharon Horowitz (1975). Ashlar quarries of the Iron Age in the hill country of Israel. Bulletin American Schools of Oriental Research. 218:37-48.
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