Biblical Archaeology Review 20:3, May/June 1994

The Tombs of Silwan

Lavish First Temple burial caves of Jerusalem’s elite became, in turn, Roman stone quarries, Byzantine hermit huts, Christian chapels and Muslim cellars

By Hershel Shanks

As in Washington, so in Jerusalem: There are some sections you just don’t venture into. In Jerusalem one such section is the village of Silwan, on the eastern slope of the Kidron Valley opposite the City of David (the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem). Silwan has a long reputation for filth and inhospitality. Since the early 19th century, travelers to Silwan (or Siloam, as it is also called) have written about this: Charles Wilson, the British explorer, noted, “The houses and the streets of Siloam, if such they may be called, are filthy in the extreme.” Wilson’s famous British colleague Charles Warren wrote, “The people of Siloam are a lawless set, credited with being the most unscrupulous ruffians in Palestine.” Even then this was an old story; one 19th-century account tells us that the villagers are “a vicious, quarrelsome and dishonest set of people, and noted for such propensities for centuries past.” J.L. Porter called them “lawless, fanatical vagabonds.”

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.