Archaeologists working in an area of Jerusalem known as the Armon Hanatziv Promenade have discovered three spectacularly preserved capital stones carved with the symbol of the Davidic dynasty.
The promenade is the site of a royal palace or estate that was occupied 2,700 years ago, in the time of the Judean kings written about in the Bible. The estate is from the time period between the Assyrian siege on Jerusalem and the city's capture by the Babylonians, the seventh century BCE.
Several months ago, a digger found the first of the three capitals when the shovel struck a large stone.
"When we brushed it clean, it was the most beautiful decoration I believe ever found of the capitals that were created in that manner from the first temple period," recalled Yaakov Billig, who manages the archaeological work at the promenade and has worked there for 30 years.
Billig described his disbelief at finding such a pristine capital with the Davidic symbol.
"I thought, ‘Yaakov, maybe you've been in the sun too long' " he told the Jerusalem Post. "But I looked again, and it was still there."
The workers thought they had discovered only one capital stone, until they removed it and found a second immediately beneath it. Yet a third stone lay underneath that one. Billig said he believes the capitals were used to hold up a patio or decorate a porch.
Workers at the site also have uncovered a toilet, which was used only by the wealthy in that time period, and additional evidence that the area was occupied by the elite of Jewish society.
"This discovery is really a once-in-a-lifetime discovery," said Doron Spielman, vice president of the City of David Foundation.