BLOG 372 November 20, 2017
In the midst of the “push and pull” of Middle-Eastern politics and structure, periodically the Israel Antiquities Authority and other archaeologists make important discoveries. Perhaps, no place else in the world has attracted such fervent interest. My dear friend, Dr. William Tabbernee, author of Early Christianity in Contexts, has made similar archaeological explorations exploring the history of the Montanists. His work and findings are fascinating to explore.
Just recently another such discovery was made beneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Wilson’s Arch was the last in a series of arched bridges that connected to the Temple Mount from the West. Today it is the only remaining remnant of the Second Temple period. A huge aqueduct also passed over the arch. In an attempt to further date this area, Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman, and Dr. Avi Solomon discovered a 200 seat amphitheater built in a Roman style like the ones at Caesarea or Beit She’an except much smaller. The uncovered theater sat under Wilson’s Arch, providing cover in case of rain or storms. Interestingly enough, the archaeologists are not sure this semi-circular theater was ever used. One archaeologist deemed this the most important discovery in the last thirty years.
One speculation is that it was built around the time of the BarKokhba Revolt and war and may have not been finished because of that insurrection against the Romans. Other similar findings were left unfinished from this period, suggesting the same possibility. The findings around the Wilson Arch area emphasize how significant these discoveries in the region can be.
On my visits to Jerusalem, a friend who is an American archaeologist took me inside these excavations to walk around the bedrock foundation of the original Temple Mount. Having removed dirt that for centuries had piled up against the city walls, they uncovered a large rock pathway that still had one of the stones split apart when the Romans took the Second Temple down. For 2,000 years no one had seen or walked on that stone. I stood there in awe of what it felt like to put one foot in the 21st century and the other in the first century!
Such finds are worthwhile indeed!