Israeli archaeologists recently uncovered eight previously unearthed sections of the Temple Mount’s retaining wall in Jerusalem and part of a Roman-era theater in an area abutting the wall. Researchers estimate the theater is around 1,800 years old and believe the Roman Emperor Hadrian likely built it when he rebuilt the city of Jerusalem as a Roman colony.
It remains unclear why work on the theater appeared to stop abruptly. Joe Uziel, the archaeologist heading the dig, suggested the second Jewish revolt against Rome, A.D. 132–135, could have halted the construction.
The excavation will continue for another six months. The archaeologists hope they will uncover artifacts from the First Temple, built by King Solomon of the Old Testament and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem and built the Second Temple, which was dedicated around 515 B.C. Roman soldiers burned the temple and razed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jews still consider the Temple Mount the holiest site on earth. Today the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic Dome of the Rock sit on the site.
“We have a great deal of archaeological work ahead, and I am certain that the deeper we dig, the earlier the periods we will reach, further anchoring the profound connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and to Jerusalem,” Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel told the Times of Israel.
Uziel said he hoped further excavations would shed light on daily life in Jerusalem after the Roman attack. —J.B.