JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists uncovered a third-century Roman building in the City of David excavation.
"Although we do not have the complete dimensions of the structure, we can cautiously estimate that the building covered an area of approximately 1,000 square meters (yards)," excavation director Dr. Doron Ben-Ami said on behalf of the IAA.
"In the center of it was a large open courtyard surrounded by columns. Galleries were spread out between the rows of columns and the rooms that flanked the courtyard," he said.
"The wings of the building rose to a height of two stories and were covered with tiles," Ben-Ami said.
The many fresco fragments uncovered at the site indicate that the walls were decorated with colorful motifs, often with floral or geometric designs.
The building's "architectural richness, plan and particularly the artifacts that were discovered among its ruins bear witness to the unequivocal Roman character of the building," the IAA stated in its press release.
Among the artifacts were a gold earring inlaid with pearls and precious stones and a marble bust of a boxer.
Archaeologists believe the collapsed walls of the third-century AD building are the result of an earthquake, which occurred in the fourth century.
Ben-Ami said the structure is unique in Israel.
"We know of no other buildings from the Roman period that were discovered in Israel, which have a similar plan to that of the building from the City of David," Ben-Ami said.
"The closet contemporary parallels to this structure are located in sites of second to fourth century AD, which were excavated in Syria," he said.
"Edifices such as these are 'urban mansions' from the Roman period, which were discovered in Antioch, Apamea and Palmyra. If this parallel is correct, then in spite of its size and opulence, it seems that this building was used originally used as a private residence," he said.
The IAA called the discovery "a significant contribution" to understanding third and fourth century Roman construction.
The ruins also indicate that the City of David was not outside the area of Roman settlement at the time time of the Aelia Capitolina, the city built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who exhibited some strikingly anti-Semitic attitudes toward the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The excavation, underwritten by the City of David (Ir David) Foundation, is taking place in the Givati parking lot outside the Old City's Dung Gate in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority.
Source: Israel Antiquities Authority