Long-buried Roman theater discovered in Jerusalem

Long-buried Roman theater discovered in Jerusalem

"But the discovery of the theater-like structure is the real drama".

Carbon dating and other methods indicate that the theatre was probably built in the second or third century AD. On the same dig, they unearthed eight stone courses of the Western Wall.

The Western Wall courses, much like the Roman theater remains, were revealed during a press conference held underneath the Western Wall tunnel's Wilson Arch, which is the only whole remaining structure visible from the Temple Mount compound of the Second Temple period. The incomplete arena is beneath the prayer plaza of the Western Wall, a site holy to Jews and Muslims.

Previously, the last section to be exposed was in 2007, IAA chief Jerusalem architect Yuval Baruch said.

It was relatively small, and might have been created to seat around 200 people. Below it was a road containing shops and water drainage systems.

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.

Zeev Weiss, a Roman archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who wasn't involved in the excavation, said the discovery of such a central civic building was "a great find".

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The findings from the excavations beneath Wilson's Arch "enhance the importance of expanding the archaeological excavations in this region", said Hasson.

The excavators note: "This is a relatively small structure compared to known Roman theatres (such as at Caesarea, Bet She'an and Bet Guvrin)".

In most cases, such structures were used for acoustic performances and alternatively, this may have been a structure known as a bouleuterion, they added.

"We did not want to disturb any of the religious activities that were occurring in this area", he said.

Palestinians said the tunnel threatened the foundations of the adjoining Al-Aqsa mosque complex, Islam's third holiest site.

Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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