The Kidron Valley on the eastern side of The Old City of Jerusalem, separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, continues east through the Judean desert in the West Bank, towards the Dead Sea. The central point of reference for the upper Kidron Valley is its confluence of Jerusalem's richest concentration of rock-hewn tombs. This area, located on the periphery of the village Silwan, was one of the main burial grounds of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period.Several of these tombs were also used later in time, either as burial or as shelters for hermits and monks of the large monastic communities, which inhabited the Kidron Valley.
The three monumental tombs on the eastern side of the Kidron Valley are among the most well-known landmarks of ancient Jerusalem. These are, from north to south, the so-called Tomb of Absalom, Tomb of Benei Hezir and Tomb of Zechariah.
Absalom's Tomb consists of two parts. First, a lower cube hewn out of the bedrock, decorated with engaged Ionic columns bearing a Doric frieze and crowned by an Egyptian cornice. This part of the monument contains a small chamber with an entrance and two arched funeral niches and constitutes the actual tomb. The second part, built of ashlars, is placed on top of the rock-hewn cube. It consists of a square pedestal carrying a round drum, itself topped by a conical roof. The cone is slightly concave and is crowned by an Egyptian-style lotus flower. The 'Pillar of Absalom' is dated to the 1st century CE.
Tomb of Zechariah is a monolith — it is completely carved out of the solid rock and does not contain a burial chamber. The lowest part of the monument is a crepidoma, a base made of three steps. Above it there is a stylobate, upon which there is a decoration of two ionic columns between two half ionic columns and at the corners there are two pilasters. The capitals are of the Ionic order and are decorated with the egg-and-dart decoration. The upper part of the monument is an Egyptian-style cornice upon which sits a pyramid. Interestingly the fine masonry and decoration that is visible on the western side, the facade, is on the western side alone. On the other sides of the tomb the work is extremely rough and unfinished; it seems as if the work was abruptly stopped before the artists could finish the job.
According to a Jewish tradition, which is first suggested by the 1215 CE writings of Menahem haHebroni, this is the tomb of the priest Zechariah Ben Jehoiada, a figure that the Book of Chronicles.
The Tomb of Benei Hezir is the oldest of four monumental rock-cut tombs in the Kidron Valley. The tomb dates to the second century BCE, the Hellenistic period and the time of the Hasmonean monarchy in Jewish history. It is a complex of burial caves. The tomb was originally accessed from a single rock-cut stairwell which descends to the tomb from the north. At a later period an additional entrance was created by quarrying a tunnel from the courtyard of the Tomb of Zechariah. This is also the contemporary entrance to the burial complex.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.