Published: Wed, October 18, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theater uncovered after 1700 years

Massive section of Western Wall and Roman theater uncovered after 1700 years

Israel Antiquity Authority archaeologists announced Monday that for the past two years they have been excavating and exposing a massive eight-meter deep section of Jerusalem's Western Wall, unseen for 1,700 years.

Archaeologists have searched for the ruins for 150 years, according to The Times of Israel, and their discovery is already altering their perceptions of Roman-occupied Jerusalem after the fall of the Second Temple and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE.

Apparently, a great deal was invested in the construction of the theater which contained approximately 200 seats.

Wilson's Arch is the only well-preserved structure remained from the Temple Mount compound of the second Temple period.

The arch stands high above the foundations of the Western Wall, and it served, among other purposes, as a passageway for people entering the Temple Mount compound and the Temple. "When we approached the excavation in order to date Wilson's Arch, we didn't imagine that it would open a glimpse into the mystery of Jerusalem's lost theater".

'The discovery of the theatre-like structure is a real drama, ' said one of the excavators, Joe Uziel. "But at the end of the process, other findings - surprising and thought-provoking - are unearthed", Uziel added.

Zeev Weiss, a Roman archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who wasn't involved in the excavation, said the discovery of such a central civic building was "a great find".

And in the course of their work, which has been quietly proceeding directly beneath Wilson's Arch - the area immediately adjacent to the men's section of the Western Wall - they unexpectedly discovered a small Roman theater.

"I believe that this is one of the indications that also during that period between the Second Temple and between the rise of Christianity, Jerusalem was also an important Roman colony, not just a wasteland, no-man's land where the legion sat around", he said. The reasons for this are unknown, but they may have been connected to a significant historical event, perhaps the Bar Kokhba Revolt: construction of the building may have been started, but abandoned when the revolt broke out. The find abuts the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, as it houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

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