Ancient Roman theater, stone courses discovered in Western Wall excavations


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An ancient Roman theater and eight stone courses, or layers of cut stone, were uncovered in excavations in the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem.

The preserved archeological discoveries were unveiled to the media on Monday by the Israel Antiquities Authority, following work to remove an 8-meter layer of earth under Wilson’s Arch, the only intact, visible structure remaining from the Temple Mount compound of the Second Temple period.  The arch served as a passageway for people entering the Temple Mount compound and the Temple. An aqueduct also passed over the arch.

The discovery of the 200-seat theater structure from the Roman period confirms historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount, the IAA said in a statement. The excavations under Wilson’s Arch were undertaken with the intent to date the arch, according to the IAA.

The structures were built following the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

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 “From a research perspective, this is a sensational find. The discovery was a real surprise. When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch.  We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater,” site excavators Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon said in a statement. “|There is no doubt that the exposure of the courses of the Western Wall and the components of Wilson’s Arch are thrilling discoveries that contribute to our understanding of Jerusalem. But the discovery of the theater-like structure is the real drama.”

The findings will be presented to the public during a conference titled New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Environs, which will take place at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.