Byzantine-era street uncovered in Jerusalem
Israeli archaeologists unearth section of an old stone-flagged
street in capital that provides important new evidence about city's
commercial life 1,500 years ago
Associated Press: 14 February 2010
With the help of an ancient mosaic map, the Madaba Map, Israeli
archaeologists said they have unearthed a section of an old stone-flagged
street in Jerusalem that provides important new evidence about the
city's commercial life 1,500 years ago.
The 20-foot section of street passes from the west into the center
of Jerusalem's Old City, and stands upon a large cistern that supplied
water to the city's 30,000 to 40,000 residents. Pottery, coins and
bronze weights used to measure precious metals from Byzantine times
also were found. The discovery conforms to the layout of the city
depicted in a famous 6th-century mosaic map discovered more than
100 years ago in a Jordanian church, said excavation director Ofer
The map has long been used as a guide to understanding the shape
of the city from the 4th to 6th centuries, and the direction of
the street is new evidence the map is correct, he said.
during this time had become a Roman city named Aelia Capitolina,
with Jews barred from entering after their revolt against their
Roman overlords in 132 A.D. It became a major center for the emerging
The Byzantine Empire evolved out of the eastern half of the Roman
Empire when the western part succumbed to barbarian invasions and
ruled over much of the Middle East until the Arab conquests of the
A staunchly Christian empire based in Constantinople, now Istanbul,
it valued Jerusalem as a key Christian religious center and invested
heavily into the city, which became a destination for thousands
of pilgrims every year.
"This street was the center during the most (commercially)
successful period in the history of (ancient) Jerusalem," Sion
said. "It is wonderful that (today's street) actually preserved
the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago."
Working from the historic map, archaeologists three months ago
uncovered the section of the wide, white stone street 14 feet (4.5
meters) below the current street level.
Archaeologists have already excavated another ancient street in
Jerusalem from that time known as the Cardo, which ran north to
south and hosted many shops along its pillared length. Sion said
the newly found street included a sidewalk and row of columns.
The map, uncovered in 1894 on the floor of a Byzantine-era church
in Madaba, Jordan, shows the locations of major streets and the
Christian sites in the city, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher,
the site where the faithful believe Jesus was crucified, buried
Once restoration work is completed, within the next few weeks,
the segment of street will be covered because of heavy pedestrian
traffic, Sion said. It has yet to be decided if the site will be
available for viewing.
The Israel Antiquities Authority undertook the project in response
to a municipal plan to build an electric cable system on the site.
In a land where every shovel might unearth something ancient, Israeli
law requires the authority to inspect construction zones for ruins
before work begins.
PHOTOS - 1) Region of Jerusalem as it appears on the Madaba
Map (Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)
2) Cistern exposed below street, between David’s Citadel
and David Street (Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of Israel Antiquities