Photo Credit: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority
First Temple oil lamp that was discovered in the Septic tank under the lavatory.

A lavatory cubicle from the First Temple period, which was part of an estate from the late 7th century BCE, was discovered at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem, where two years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the City of David uncovered the remains of a magnificent building overlooking the City of David and the Temple Mount. It turns out one of the amenities of the building was a cubicle with a private toilet.

The ancient stone lavatory that was most likely used by one of the dignitaries of Jerusalem. / Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

The facility was hewn as a rectangular cabin, with a carved toilet, which stood over a deep-hewn septic tank. Made of limestone, it is designed for comfortable sitting, with a hole at the center. According to Yaakov Billig, Director of the Excavation on behalf of the IAA, “a private toilet cubicle was very rare in antiquity, and only a few have been found to date, most of them in the City of David. Only the rich could afford toilets. A thousand years later, the Talmud noted, Who is a rich man? He whose lavatory is near his dining table (Shabbat 25:).”

The excavation at Armon HaNatziv in Jerusalem. The City of David and the Temple Mount are in the background. / Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority

A septic tank was discovered underneath the toilet, containing a large amount of pottery from the First Temple period as well as animal bones. The finds were carefully collected, including the soil fill, and they may teach us about the lifestyle and diet of First Temple individuals, and possibly their ancient diseases, too.

Impressive architectural items were also discovered in the excavation, including stone capitals designed by an artist, in a style typical of the days of the First Temple, and small architectural columns that served as railings for windows.

Mini capitals that stood on top of the baluster columns in the mansion’s windows. / Shai Halevi, Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeologists also identified evidence that a garden with ornamental trees, fruit trees, and aquatic plants was planted near the toilet cubicle. All of these allow researchers to recreate an image of an extensive and lush mansion, a magnificent palace from the days of the First Temple, that stood on the site.

A rendering of the palace from the end of the First Temple period. / Shalom Kweller / City of David

According to Eskosido, “It’s fascinating to see how something that’s obvious to us today, such as toilets, was a luxury item during the reign of the kings of Judah. Jerusalem never ceases to amaze us. One can only imagine the breathtaking view that was available from here. I am convinced that the glorious past of the city will continue to be revealed to us in the future .”

A rendering of the palace from the end of the First Temple period. / Shalom Kweller / City of David

The discovery will be presented on Wednesday at the 2-day conference “Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Surroundings,” in Jerusalem and on Zoom. Details of the event are provided on the Facebook page of the IAA.

The new tourist complex located at Armon Hanatziv was made possible by a collaboration of the City of David, the Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs, and the Jewish National Fund.


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