The discovery by Israeli archaeologists is, what they say, evidence of a “magnificent” palace from the era of a Biblical Jewish kingdom in Jerusalem. Elaborately carved stone structures and other relics aligned with such a building were found about 3km (2 miles) south of Jerusalem’s Old City. Some of the artefacts had been neatly buried, archaeologists said.
They could not explain why.
The palace is thought to have been built around the 8th or 7th Century BC.
Remains were unearthed in what is now the East Talpiot neighbourhood, also known as Armon Hanatziv.
He said: “At this point, it is still difficult to say who hid the capitals in the way they were discovered, and why he did so.
“But there is no doubt that this is one of the mysteries at this unique site, to which we will try to offer a solution.”
The grand building was probably destroyed during the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC, according to Prof Billig.
The structure was thought to have once towered over the city.
The IAA said whoever lived in the “monumental” tower would have had a “breathtaking” view of an area now known as the City of David, or Wadi Hilweh in Arabic.
Panoramic views of the Jewish Temple on a holy plateau known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram al-Sharif would have also been in abundance.
The occupants could have been one of the kings of Judah or the wealthy family of a nobleman, the IAA suggested.
The carvings adorning the capitals were a known visual symbol of the period of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the IAA pointed out.
They appear as one of the motifs on the five shekel coin of the modern State of Israel.