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Ancient road found in Jerusalem's heart

By Kevin Flower
Israeli archaeologists say they've found a 1,500-year-old road, 4.5 meters under the current level of streets in Jerusalem's Old City.
Israeli archaeologists say they've found a 1,500-year-old road, 4.5 meters under the current level of streets in Jerusalem's Old City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ancient road uncovered running through Jerusalem's center
  • Discovery lends credence to Byzantine Madaba Map theory
  • Road found near Jaffa Gate, 4.5 meters under current street level
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Archaeologists working under the direction of the Israeli Antiquities Authority have uncovered a 1500-year-old road running through the center of Jerusalem's Old City.

Excavation director Dr. Ofer Sion said the discovery lends further credence to the accuracy of what is known as the Madaba Map - a Byzantine period mosaic map of the Holy Land that depicts an entrance into Jerusalem that leads to a single central street.

Archaeologists working in Jerusalem have made various finds to suggest the Madaba map was geographically correct, but the road depicted in the mosaic had not been found.

"It is proof of this beautiful map and for this street from the Byzantine period" Sion told reporters at the dig location.

The ancient road was found near the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City 4.5 meters under current street level when municipality workers initiated an infrastructure improvement project. The road dates from the period when Jerusalem was under Christian control and was constructed with large flagstones of more than a meter in length.

Sion said the road connected the western wall of the city to the eastern side of Jerusalem and commented that at that time "hundreds of thousands of people are reaching the city, pilgrims from all over the world, and they are coming to Jerusalem and entering through the gate and going down the center, to the market of the city. They are going down in this street..."

It is proof of this beautiful map and for this street from the Byzantine period
--Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director

Next to the road archaeologists also discovered a stone foundation which supported a sidewalk and a row of columns. In a written statement Sion remarked "It is wonderful to see that David Street, which is teeming with so much life today, actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago".

Other artefacts discovered in the excavation included coins, pottery vessels, and five bronze weights that are believed to have been used by merchants for weighing precious metals.

The Madaba map, is large 8 X 16 meter mosaic located in the apse of the church of Saint George in Masdaba, Jordan. It is the oldest known cartographic representation of the Holy Land and at it's center is a detailed depiction of Jerusalem in the 6th century C.E.. The mosaic has served as a guide to historians and archaeologists as to what Byzantine period Jerusalem may have looked like and depicts many landmarks that survive until this day including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Damascus Gate.

 
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