The Israel Antiquities Authority has uncovered some fascinating 2,000-year-old excavations in the area of the Western Wall Plaza and Tunnels, in the “Beit Straus” complex, beneath the entrance lobby to the Western Wall Tunnels. The excavations are thought to have dated back to the Early Roman period, which would have been before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple.
“This is a unique finding,” stated Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehila Sadiel, Directors of Excavation at the Israel Antiquities Authority, who were leading the archaeological team finding these ancient ruins. “This is the first time a subterranean system has been uncovered adjacent to the Western Wall. You must understand that 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, like today, it was customary to build out of stone. The question is, why were such efforts and resources invested in hewing rooms underground in the hard bedrock?”
The rocks structure was covered by a plain white mosaic floor, predicted to have been built and designed at the end of the Byzantine period, about 1,400 years ago, and then further renovated during the Abbasid period dating back to 1,250 years ago, possibly after an earthquake in Jerusalem. The renovation was funded by a Jewish group that lived in Tyre, Lebanon, and then unfortunately the structure collapsed all together circa the 11th century CE, only to be uncovered very recently.
“The rich array of findings discovered in this excavation shed light on the daily life of the residents of the ancient city,” Drs. Monnickendam-Givon and Sadiel continued. “Among other things, we found clay cooking vessels, cores of oil lamps used for light, a stone mug unique to Second Temple Period Jewish sites, and a fragment of a qalal – a large stone basin used to hold water, thought to be linked to Jewish practices of ritual purity.”
Dr. Monnickendam-Givon elaborated to say, “The excavations at Beit Straus, under the lobby of the entrance to the Western Wall Tunnels, reveal Jerusalem in its glory: Jerusalem of people, religions, and a variety of groups who lived, worked, built, and glorified Jerusalem throughout the generations.”