CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists announced the discovery of a wall at the southern end of ancient Jerusalem, built during Second Temple times (2 BC to 70 AD).
Located just outside the walls surrounding Jerusalem's Old City today, the ancient wall was first discovered at the end of the 19th century, but over the years, the tunnels and shafts that were excavated refilled with soil.
In unearthing the 2,100-year-old wall, the IAA team uncovered the remains of a city wall built during the Byzantine period (324 to 640 AD).
"In the Second Temple period, the city, with the Temple at its center, was a focal point for Jewish pilgrimage from all over the ancient world, and in the Byzantine period, it attracted Christian pilgrims who came in the footsteps of the story of the life and death of the Messiah," IAA excavation director Yehiel Zelinger said.
The proximity of the two walls, with the Byzantine wall built unknowingly atop the Second Temple wall, confirms the theory that this location was the ideal spot from which to defend the city.
"The exposure of the Hasmonean city wall and the line of fortifications from the Byzantine period, which is date 400 years later and is right on top of the former, prove that this is the most advantageous topographic location for the defense of the city," Zelinger told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
"The artifacts indicate that in spite of the fact that the builders of the Byzantine wall were unaware of the existence of the wall from the time of the Second Temple, they constructed their wall precisely along the same route," he said.
The excavation of the wall is part of a project that will culminate in the Jerusalem City Wall National Park, a promenade that will follow the route of the ancient wall, encircling the southern side of Mount Zion.
Planners hope the promenade will help preserve the area surrounding the Old City and become a major tourist attraction upon its completion in the next few years.
The project is a joint effort by the IAA, the Nature and parks Authority and the Ir David (City of David) Foundation, which is providing the funding.
Zelinger hopes that the team will soon uncover the wall built when the First Jewish Temple stood on Mount Zion.