For the first time, the main road of Jerusalem from 1,500 years ago is exposed in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem's Old City, confirming an ancient map description.
During an Israel Antiquities Authorities excavation in advance of infrastructure work in Jerusalem, flagstones from a 1500 year old street have been exposed, following the same course as today’s David Street in the Old City of Jerusalem. The find confirms the Madaba Map, an ancient mosaic map in a church in Jordan from the sixth-seventh century CE, which depicted the Land of Israel in the Byzantine period and the entrance to Jerusalem from the west via a very large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city.
Various evidence of the important buildings in Jerusalem that appear on the map has been uncovered over the years or has survived to this day – for example the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – but the large bustling street from the period when Jerusalem became a Christian city has not been discovered until now.
From his knowledge of the Madaba Map, Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, surmised that the place where the infrastructure will be replaced is where a main road passes that is known from the map. “At a depth of about 4.5 m below today’s street level, much to our excitement we discovered the large flagstones, more than a meter long, that paved the street”. A foundation built of stone was unearthed alongside the street on which a sidewalk and a row of columns, which have not yet been revealed, were founded.
According to Dr. Sion, “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”.
During the Middle Ages a large building was constructed on the stone foundation of the Byzantine period. During the Mamluk period (13-14th centuries CE) elongated rooms, some vaulted, were built inside this structure, apparently used as shops and storerooms. Beneath this building, below the street that runs between David’s Citadel and David Street and leads to the Armenian Quarter, is an enormous 5 meter deep cistern which supplied water to its occupants.
The artifacts that were discovered in the excavations include an abundance of pottery vessels and coins and five small square bronze weights that the shopkeepers used for weighing precious metals.