TEL AVIV – A sensational new archaeological find in Jerusalem’s Old City has unearthed massive portions of the Western Wall and an ancient Roman theater unseen for 1,700 years, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on Monday.
The excavations – which, as well as the theater, revealed eight enormous stones of the Western Wall preserved by 26 feet of earth – have been carried out quietly over the past two years beneath Wilson’s Arch in the Western Wall Tunnels – the only visible, intact structure remaining from the Second Temple period. During that time, the arch was used as a passageway for worshipers into the Temple compound.
“Time after time the amazing archaeological findings allow our generation to actually touch the ancient history of our people and Jewish heritage and its deep connection to Jerusalem,” said Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz.
However, for leaders of the dig, the Roman theater’s unearthing was the most thrilling discovery.
“From a research perspective, this is a sensational find,” Dr Joe Uziel, one of the excavators at the site, said at a press conference Monday morning. “The discovery was a real surprise. We did not imagine that a window would open for us on to the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater. Like much of archeological 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.”
“The discovery of the theater-like structure is a real drama,” Uziel added in reference to the 200-seat theater.
The theater’s existence was noted by Josephus Flavius and other ancient sources but its discovery has eluded archaeologists for decades.
Uziel’s colleague Tehila Lieberman said the theater’s discovery was “unbelievable.”
“Now we saw there was leisure, entertainment under Wilson’s Arch,” she said.