Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, with the participation of volunteers, have uncovered large portions of courses of the Western Wall that have been hidden for 1,700 years. An ancient Roman theater-like structure was exposed for the first time. The discoveries were announced in a news release from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The dramatic discoveries were to be presented to the public for the first time at the conference titled “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Environs,” held recently in Jerusalem, marking 50 years of archaeological research since the reunification of the city.
The eight stone courses had been buried under an 8-meter layer of earth. They were completely preserved, are built of massive stones and are outstanding in the quality of their construction, the news release said.
Archaeologists were surprised to discover the layer of earth had also covered the remnants of an extraordinary theater-like structure from the Roman period confirming historical writings that describe a theater near the Temple Mount. The theater contained approximately 200 seats.
According to site excavators Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon: “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.
“Like much of archaeological research, the expectation is that a certain thing will be found, but at the end of the process other findings, surprising and thought-provoking, are unearthed. 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.”
Interestingly, the archaeologists believe the theater was never used. A number of findings at the site indicate this – among them a staircase that was never completely hewn. It is clear that great effort was invested in the building’s construction but oddly, it was abandoned before it was put to use. •