Mount Gerizim - Archaeology


As a result of the fortified church and previous Samaritan temple, extensive ruins still exist at the somewhat plateau-like top of Gerizim. The line of the wall around the church can easily be seen, as can portions of the former castle, and initial archaeological study of the site postulated that the castle built by Justinian had utilised stones from an earlier structure on the site (probably the Samaritan temple). In the centre of the plateau is a smooth surface, containing a hollow, which archaeologists consider to be reminiscent of dolmens found in southwestern Syria, and which Samaritans consider to be a portion of their former temple.

A more substantial archaeological survey was undertaken in the middle of the 20th century, while the site was in the possession of Jordan, in the region of the mountain known as Tel el-Ras, situated on the northernmost peak at the end of the northern ridge. This excavation, which continued under Israel's jurisdiction, uncovered Corinthian columns, a large rectangular platform (65m by 44m) surrounded by 2m thick and 9m high walls, and an 8m wide staircase leading down from the platform to a marbled esplanade. The complex also has a series of cisterns in which Late Roman ceramics were found. These discoveries, now named "Structure A", have been dated to the time of Hadrian, due to numismatics and external literary evidence, and are believed to be a temple dedicated to Zeus.

Underneath these remains were found a large stone structure built on top of the bedrock. This structure, now known as "Structure B", nearly half cubic (21m by 20m in width and length, and 8.5m high), consists almost entirely of unhewn limestone slabs, fitted together without any binding material, and has no internal rooms or dividing walls. The structure was surrounded by a courtyard similar to the platform above it (being 60m by 40m in size with 1.5m thick walls), and was dated to during or before the Hellenic era by ceramics found in a cistern cut into the bedrock at the northern side. The excavating archaeologist considered "Structure B" to be the altar built by the Samaritans in the 5th or 6th century BCE.

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