Archaeologists working in Jerusalem today announced the results of the last two years of excavation underneath Wilson’s Arch next to the Western Wall. The most exciting find is a small Roman theater.
The story is being reported by a number of news sources. The quotations below are from The Times of Israel. The article includes several photos.
“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.
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.
The work is set to continue for another six months, and the expectation is that First Temple-era findings will be uncovered. When the work is completed, the site will be opened to the public.
The findings of the archaeologists are interesting, and as is often the case, not entirely clear or consistent. Here are a few highlights:
- The dating of the theater is not clearly stated, but it appears that it was built after the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
- The theater went out of use following an earthquake in 360.
- The construction of the theater was never finished.
- The theater seated 200-300 people.
- The theater may have been used as a bouleuterion or as an odeon.
- Wilson’s Arch served as the roof for the theater.
- Excavations will continue below the theater with hopes of discovering remains from the First Temple Period.
- The archaeologists will present more of their findings at a conference this week at Hebrew University.
HT: Joseph Lauer