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

Lester Mason
October 17, 2017

Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient Roman theatre beneath the Old City of Jerusalem, 150 years after their search began.

So it was with surprise that a team of archeologists looking to date Wilson's Arch-the only visible remnants of the Second Temple period in the Temple Mount complex-stumbled onto what looks like the long-lost Roman theater. "The discovery was a real surprise", said the archaeologists who discovered the historical structure. "We never imagined that such a window would open to us to look into the mystery of Jerusalem's lost theater", said on-site excavators Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon. Whoever constructed the theater beneath it put a great deal of work into it: It has stone carvings and about 200 seats, the archaeologists said at a press conference today (Oct. 16).

For instance, Josephus Flavius, a first-century Roman-Jewish scholar, wrote about a theater during the Second Temple period (530 B.C.to A.D. 70). "Alternatively, this may have been a structure known as a bouleuterion - the building where the city council met, in this case the council of the roman colony of Aelia Capitolina - Roman Jerusalem".

Uziel speculates that the unfinished semi-circular theater may have been meant to serve as a small odeon, a venue for musical or theatric performances, or a bouleuterion, a place of assembly for the colony's municipal officials.


Uziel is able to estimate the age of the structure due to its apparent relationship to the Bar Kokhba revolt, the final of three Jewish-Roman wars, which took place during the second century. This enables conclusions to be drawn at a level of precision that would have been impossible in the past, transforming the study of the findings at Wilson's Arch into pioneering, cutting-edge micro-archaeological research. Exciting - but no match for the ancient theater, said one archaeologist on site.

"One of the incredible things is that because we're beneath an arch, they would have had the arch to use as their roof", Uziel said. This is not be the first potentially unfinished building from the Roman era to be unearthed in the area, leading researchers to speculate that some event-perhaps anti-Roman revolts-interfered with public construction.

The eight stone courses of the Western Wall unveiled on Monday had been hidden beneath 26 feet of earth and were perfectly preserved after being excavated.

The discoveries were disclosed during a press conference held beneath Wilson's Arch in the Western Wall Tunnels, with the participation of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall, IAA Director-General Israel Hasson and others.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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