Wooster Geologists at the Center of the World

Our visit to Jerusalem was to meet geologists at the Geological Survey of Israel main complex in the western part of the city. Those discussions went very well and we met new people and learned much. Will and I also took the opportunity to spend a few hours in the Old City. Here are some of the sites. The view above is of the Old City from Mount Scopus.

When we say that Jerusalem is the “Center of the World“, we are following a medieval tradition illustrated by this European manuscript page reproduced as a tiled image at the City Hall.

The Geological Survey of Israel headquarters have a very unassuming (and secure) entrance. This is an old World War II British military base that was on the outskirts of the city but is now surrounded by an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. It is a wise move not to advertise the very secular activities going on in there!

Our main walking route from the Survey to the Old City was Jaffa Street, which leads directly to Jaffa Gate. This is looking northwest. There is a new tram system being tested, thus the tracks in the road and lack of cars.

Will in the Old City market on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Outer courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All those people going in and out of that one doorway. Jerusalem now receives a record three million visitors a year.

Turns out the Center of the World is actually within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre … and its exact spot has been marked!

There are very few places in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where you can see the original bedrock of the area. This is a famous crack in the rock below what is supposed to be the crucifixion site and above what is known as Adam’s Grave. Note the strain gauge across the joint. There are geological concerns about the stability of the bedrock and monumental structures built on top of it. I can’t imagine how the Israeli authorities got religious sanction to install that instrument!

Crepuscular rays descending from the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The top of the Holy Sepulchre structure is at the bottom of the image.

Finally, we visited the Western Wall revered in Judaism. Above it (and not visible in this image) are the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem: the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. We thus visited in the space of a few hours sacred spaces of the three Abrahamic religions. Center of the World indeed.


About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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2 Responses to Wooster Geologists at the Center of the World

  1. sclayton says:

    I can understand why they thought Jerusalem was the COTW, but how did they decide on the exact center? Was their metric geographic or spiritual?

  2. Mark Wilson says:

    Apparently it is a calculation between the crucifixion and resurrection sites. I just learned it is a Greek Orthodox tradition not shared by the other sects. They call it the omphalos (navel) of the world.

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