City of David (Ir David)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

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The City of David also known as the Madina Dawud (مدينة داوود‎), common Arabic name Wadi Hilweh (وادي حلوه), is an archaeological site which is speculated to compose the original urban core of ancient Jerusalem. It is on a narrow ridge running south from the Temple Mount (Haram as-Sharif). The site has a good defensive position, as it is almost surrounded by the Central or Tyropoeon Valley to its west, by the Hinnom Valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east.


Archaeologically it is best known for its Canaanite infrastructure dated to the Middle Bronze Age, and its newer structures from the Iron Age, built by Judean kings.

The name "City of David" originates in the biblical narrative, where King David is described as the Israelite leader who conquers the fortified city of Jebus and renames it after himself. This was described in chapter 5 of the Second Book of Samuel, which states (verses 7-9):

The Bible says Jerusalem was a Jebusite city, which was captured by troops under King David. The biblical description is very brief, leaving space for speculation about how exactly the town was conquered. The Bible then says that the Israelites continued to use the Jebusite walls, repairing them where needed, and extended the city northward, under King Solomon, to include the Temple Mount.

City of David Archaeological Park

circa 1000 BCE

The archaeological park of the "City of David" is accessible through the street of Ma'alot Ir David (Hebrew: "City of David Ascent"). The corner of the street is just a few dozen meters east of to the Dung Gate, near the southern side of the temple. The remains at the site include several water tunnels, one of which was built by King Hezekiah and still carries water, several pools including the Pool of Siloam known from the Old and New Testaments, and here or at the adjacent Ophel scholars expect to find, or claim to have found, the remains of the Acra.

City of David in Holyland Model of Jerusalem

circa 10 CE

The Holyland Model of Jerusalem depicts the David's city in the Second Temple period. Located immediately south of the Temple Mount, is was a walled complex of buildings where royals resided.

In the 33 years of his reign (37-4 BCE), Herod transformed the city as had no other ruler since Solomon. Building palaces and citadels, a theatre and an amphitheatre, viaducts (bridges) and public monuments. These ambitious building projects, some completed long after his death, were part of the king's single-minded campaign to increase his capital's importance in the eyes of the Roman Empire. The Temple stood high above the old City of David, at the center of a gigantic white stone platform.

Archaeological Sites

circa 550 BCE

House of Ahiel
The House of Ahiel is a typical Israelite four-room house. The outside stairway presumably led to the flat roof. The outside of Ahiel’s house (east) was poorly preserved, but the western side on the hill was well preserved. Inside the house were found cosmetics and housewares all from the ruins of 586 BCE. There are side rooms, separated by monolithic pillars and piers, and adjoining service rooms to the north. These service rooms provide good examples of spaces dedicated to food preparation and food storage, as well as the house's toilet facilities.

circa 550 BCE

The Millo is part of the City of David. It is the rampart built by the Jebusites before David conquered the city. The Millo consists of the terraces and retaining walls on the eastern slope of the southeastern spur that supported the buildings above. The Millo is the Stepped Stone Structure uncovered by Kathleen Kenyon. Eilat Mazar has uncovered the Large Stone Structure (David’s Palace) that sat on the Millo.


Pool of Siloam
Remains of the Second Temple Pool of Siloam. The pool was rediscovered during an excavation work for a sewer in the autumn of 2004, following a request and directions given by archaeologists Eli Shukron accompanied by Ori Orbach from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The excavations also revealed that the pool was 225 feet wide, and that steps existed on at least three sides of the pool. The pool remained in use during the time of Jesus (illustration).


Jerusalem Ophel
The view of the Ophel (raised area), looking towards the Solomon's Stables and the Southern Wall. The stairs are to the left and the Jewish cemetary is to the right in the background. This area may also be the location of Acra, the fortified compound built by Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes following his sack of the city in 168 CE. Josephus, writing about the First Jewish–Roman War (66–70 CE), uses the Graecised form "Ophlas", and places it slightly higher up the eastern ridge from the First Temple-period Ophel, touching the "eastern cloister of the temple" and in the context of "the temple and the parts thereto adjoining, .... and the .... 'Valley of the Cedron'".


The Acra, most commonly known as the Givati Parking Lot dig, adjacent to the City of David, is the most ancient part of the Canaanite and Israelite city of Jerusalem. The discovery of a tower and glacis identified as belonging to the Seleucid fortress known as the Acra. Structure remains of fortification walls, a watchtower measuring 4 by 20 meters, and a glacis, bronze arrowheads, lead sling-stones and ballista stones were unearthed at the site, stamped with a trident characteristic to the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

circa 100 CE

Silwan Necropolis
The Necropolis of Silwan is the most important ancient cemetery in Israel/Palestine, and is assumed to have been used by the highest-ranking officials residing in Jerusalem. Its tombs were cut between the 9th and 7th centuries BCE. It is situated on the rocky eastern slope of the Kidron Valley, facing the oldest part of Jerusalem. The Arab village of Silwan was later built atop the necropolis. Although the existence of ancient tombs in the village of Silwan had been known since the 19th century, the first careful survey was not performed until 1968.

circa 100 CE

Large Stone Structure


See Also


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