Archeologists Uncover Evidence From Eve of Churban Bais Sheni

Archeologists, Uncover, Evidence, Eve, Churban Bais Sheni
Antiquities Authority
A stepped street from the period of Bais Sheni recently uncovered by archeologists. (Shai Halevi/Israel)

The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority have unveiled evidence which archeologists date to 2,000 years ago , of the battle of Yerushalayim on the eve of the destruction of Bais Sheni, at the City of David in the Yerushalayim Walls National Park.

Arrowheads and stone ballista balls were discovered on the main street that ascended from the city’s gates and the Pool of Siloam to the Bais Hamikdash, which was excavated in recent years with funding provided by the City of David Society (Elad). These finds tell the story of the last battle between the Roman forces and the Jewish rebels who had barricaded themselves in the city. This battle is described by the historian Josephus: “On the following day the Romans, having routed the brigands from the town, set the whole on fire as far as Siloam.”

According to Nahshon Szanton and Moran Hagbi, the directors of the excavation on the stepped-street on behalf of the IAA, “Josephus’ descriptions of the battle in the lower city come face-to-face for the first time with evidence that was revealed in the field in a clear and chilling manner. Stone ballista balls, fired by catapults used to bombard Yerushalayim during the Roman siege of the city, were discovered in the excavations. Arrowheads, used by the Jewish rebels in the hard-fought battles against the Roman legionnaires, were found exactly as described by Josephus.”

So far, a section of the road about 300 feet long and 22.5 feet wide, paved with large stone slabs as was customary in monumental construction throughout the Roman Empire, has been exposed in the excavations. The archeological excavations on the street utilize a combination of advanced and pioneering research methods, the results of which so far strengthen the understanding that Herod was not solely responsible for the large construction projects of Yerushalayim at the end of the Bais Sheni period. Recent research indicates that the street was built after Herod’s reign, under the auspices of the Roman procurators of Yerushalayim, and perhaps even during the tenure of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.

According to Dr. Yuval Baruch, the Yerushalayim region archaeologist for the IAA, “We intend to uncover the entire length and width of the street within five years, and thereby complete the excavation of this unique site which had already drawn the attention of archaeologists from around the world about one hundred years ago.

In recognizing the importance of the site and the finds, IAA researchers chose to utilize advanced cutting-edge research methods from the fields of natural science, biology and geology in their excavations. A combination of these advanced techniques makes the excavation of the stepped-street in the City of David exceptional in its scientific quality and importance in the development of archaeological research, and they enable researchers to address questions that have not yet been studied. The current excavations also focus on exposing the area adjacent to the street, and the shops that were alongside it. Finds revealed in the excavations will allow researchers to answer such intriguing questions as: What did the main street that led to the Bais Hamikdash look like? What was the urban nature of the Lower City that extended on either side of the magnificent road? What did they eat in Yerushalayim during the difficult siege, etc.? In order to answer these questions, a multidisciplinary study is being conducted, as well as careful wet sifting at the sifting site in the Zurim Valley National Park, where even the smallest finds are collected.

It seems that it will not be long before it will be possible for the first time to walk along one of the main streets of ancient Yerushalayim, to see how it looked, and receive answers to fascinating historical questions that have been asked for 100 years relating to the history of the holy city.

The unveiling of the excavations was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Yerushsalayim.

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