The Herodian Quarter, also called the The Wohl Museum of Archaeology, is archaeological remains of the ancient Upper City.
Beneath today’s Jewish homes is one of the largest underground archaeological sites in the world.
There you can see the incredible remains of the homes of affluent Jews and ashes from the holy cities destruction nearly two millennia ago.
It was once the great Upper City, where palaces of the Hasmonean kings and King Herod stood, and the large elaborate homes of the high priests and of the local aristocracy overlooked the Temple.
During excavation of they the Herodian Quarter they discovered extraordinary houses of the Kohanim, beautiful mosaics and artwork, household items including lounges, mikvas, and more.
Another amazing find were ashes left from the burning of the Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the second temple.
Visitors can walk through the courtyards and the rooms of houses, in which the stone furniture and vessels used by the inhabitants 2,000 years ago stand intact.
The “Palatial Mansion” in the Herodian Quarter is the largest, most complete, and most elaborate of the homes uncovered. It is a good representation of the architecture and the splendor of the buildings typical of the Upper City.
Palatial Mansion was a two-story house had a good view of the Temple Mount and the Temple itself and was total area of 600 square meters.
The house had a ground floor had a central courtyard and living quarters and a basement which included water installations, storage, and service rooms.
Check out the Herodian Quarter webpage for times and pricing.
Self Guided Tour
The Herodian Quarter was the aristocratic quarter of the city of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. It is named this because the houses date to King Herod’s reign.
The houses were found destroyed under a huge layer of ashes. This attests to the great fire that raged in Jerusalem for about a month after the destruction of the Temple.
The houses that were revealed under the ash tell us about the wealth and splendor of those who lived there. Amoung the finds were dozens of ritual baths, art works such as mosaics, frescoes, decorated tables, extraordinarily colored pottery, and more.
All that remained from the western house is the basement floor with food storage, water holes, mikvot (ritual baths), and mosaics.
In this case, the mosaic was built to prevent mud puddles from accumulating by the baths.
Note how these are similar to Roman-Hellenistic mosaics but they do not contain images of animals or people. The Jewish residents borrowed the art form but designed it in accordance with Jewish laws.
At the entrances of several of the mikvot, there are stone basins. These basins were used for washing feet before entering. This was done to keep the bath’s water as clean as possible.
Almost every room has a mikva which attests to the importance of purification for its residents. This makes sense since the people who lived there were probably Temple priests.
Another house is the ‘Beit Hamidot’ which is large and very luxurious. There you can see color decorations on the walls and luxurious mosaic floors.
One of the most significant findings is the engraving of the Temple Menorah.
Since the Temple is less than 100 meters away, it is quite likely that this is an exact replica of the real thing. It is believed that the person who engraved it was a priest who saw the Menorah in the Temple.
Further down household items, including stone utensils, are on display. According to Jewish law, stone tools do not need to be kashered which explains their wide use at the time.
After the Second Temple’s destruction the stone tools’ industry stopped existing. So, the tools on display are the last relics.
Courtyard and Mosaic
Now we turn to the columned courtyard, which is a balcony of sorts from which the inhabitants enjoyed a clear view of the Temple Mount and the Temple.
An mosaic in the center of the nearby parlor was carefully renovated and underneath it, archaeologists found an even earlier mosaic. Both mosaics are on display.
Another important finding is the burnt mosaic floor.
These ashes originated in the wooden beams that collapsed during the city’s destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.
These are the ash of Jerusalem.