The remains of a building from the First Temple period have been uncovered in an archeological excavation just west of Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Sunday.
The discovery marks the first time in the history of Jerusalem archeological research that building remains from the First Temple period have been exposed so close to the Temple Mount, the state-run archeological body said.
No archeological excavations have ever been carried out on the Temple Mount itself due to religious sensitivities.
The "unprecedented" find was first discovered a couple of months ago during a two-year dig in the northwestern part of the Western Wall plaza, less than 100 meters west of the Temple Mount, said archeologist Alexander Onn, who is participating in the dig at the site.
The "salvage excavation" being carried out ahead of planned construction at the site first revealed the remains of a magnificent colonnaded street from the Late Roman period (second century CE) which is referred to as the Eastern Cardo, and which served as a main city thoroughfare.
Next, it emerged that the Roman road was paved with large heavy limestone that was set directly on top of the remains of a building that dates to the end of the First Temple period.
The walls of the buildings are preserved to a height of over two meters.
The Roman road effectively protected the finds from the First Temple from being plundered in later periods. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE.
Another artifact found in the excavations is a personal seal made of precious stone bearing a Hebrew inscription that was apparently inlaid in a ring.
The elliptical seal, which measures about 1.1 cm x 1.4 cm and is decorated with four pomegranates, includes the name of the seal's owner, "to Netanyahu ben Yaush," which appears engraved in ancient Hebrew script.
The two names are known to be biblical names: Netanyahu is mentioned a number of times in the Bible (in the Book of Jeremiah and in Chronicles), while the name Yaush appears in the Lachish letters.
The owners of personal seals were typically people who held senior government positions, although this combination of names was unknown until now.
In addition to the personal seal, a vast number of pottery vessels were discovered in the dig, including three jar handles that bear stamped impressions.
An inscription in ancient Hebrew script is preserved on one these impressions and it reads: "[belonging] to the king of Hebron."
The newly-found remnants of the city's past will be preserved next to a new Western Wall Heritage Center, slated to be built at the site, and whose planning prompted the salvage dig.
The construction of the building, which is expected to take several years and is being underwritten by the American media mogul Mort Zuckerman, will include an educational center, a video conference room, a VIP lounge and a police station.