by Jordan Hilger, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) - A moat used by Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem in the 11th Century to keep Crusaders out was discovered near the Zion Gate along the Old City’s walls, confirming the existence of something that had formerly only been found in chronicles thought to be fanciful.
On July 15th, 920 years to the day after Raymond of Saint-Gilles completed his siege on the Fatimid-occupied city and helped establish the first crusader kingdom of Jerusalem, scholars working for the Mount Zion Project found the 13-foot-deep obstacle to their advances.
“This particular period, of all the periods in Western history, is that intersection of ancient Judaism and the birth of Christianity. We’re at ground zero,” said James Tabor, professor of religious studies at UNC Charlotte and co-director of the dig, in a press release.
Chronicles from the period report Raymond offering his men a gold dinar apiece to fill the moat, which prevented the construction of siege works—a task that would have involved braving buckets of burning olive oil hurled from the city walls.
The Mount Zion excavations, near the Tomb of David and the putative room where Jesus had his last supper with his disciples, also recently discovered a mysterious inscription in a stone vessel that would have belonged to a Jewish priestly family during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
“It has some sort of reference to a person who comes back and goes to the House of God, has the name of God, and other people’s names,” said Shimon Gibson, a UNC professor who helms the dig along with Tabor.
The Mount Zion Project, whose crew of 80 scholars and students has been working on the excavations for years, intends to create a tourist attraction out of the site.