Roman Theater Discovered Next to Western Wall

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.

Read the full story here. High-resolution photos are available here.

HT: Joseph Lauer


Roman theater with archaeologist Joe Uziel Photograph: Yaniv Berman, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

2 thoughts on “Roman Theater Discovered Next to Western Wall

  1. The model at the Israel Museum includes a theater because Josephus (and perhaps other sources) state that there was a theater in the city. Since its location has not been discovered, the model designers arbitrarily chose a place. Is the one discovered that shown on the model? There are two differences between the two: size and date. The one discovered isn't actually a theater but is an odeon or bouleuterion, both of which are much smaller. And the one discovered apparently wasn't even built until after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. So archaeologists need to keep looking for the earlier theater so that they can make the model correct!

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