In an oft-repeated story that the Patent Office denies, a 19th-century Commissioner of Patents announced that he would retire because everything that could be invented would soon be invented.
I was reminded of this story as I traveled from dig to dig in Israel recently. Hasn’t everything been dug up already? You would think so. But in fact there is no end to it, even in Jerusalem, the most excavated city in the world.
Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Ronny Reich took us to his new excavation—more accurately, re-excavation—at the southern part of the western wall of the Temple Mount. Here he has uncovered more of the handsomely paved Herodian street, complete with curbs on either side, that ran along the Temple Mount wall at the time the city was burned and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. We climbed down a long wooden ladder to get to street level while a backhoe was carrying away from the site tons and tons of dirt in enormous bags. At the bottom, we walked along the street, dwarfed by heaps of huge ashlars that the Romans had toppled from the high walls. There they had lain for nearly 2,000 years. Beneath these beautifully worked stones were the smaller stones of the crushed shops that had once lined the street. On the opposite side of the street, the shops were still intact, and we could walk inside.