JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a first-ever find in Jerusalem: an impressive building dating to the second century B.C., the time period of the famous Maccabee family, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced this week.
The family is associated with the holiday of Hanukkah.
The discovery is from the Hasmonean Period, when the Hasmonean Dynasty ruled ancient Judea and surrounding areas from 141-37 B.C. It began with a descendant of the Maccabees, Simon Maccabaeus, some two decades after his brother, Judas the Maccabee (hammer) defeated the Seleucid army in a rebel revolt.
The Seleucids imposed their Greek culture on the Jewish people and forbid them to keep the Sabbath and circumcise their sons - both Biblical commandments.
They also defiled the Temple in Jerusalem by erecting idols and sacrificing a pig on the altar of God.
The Maccabees led the revolt against the Seleucids and eventually rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah means "dedication."
Despite more than 100 years of excavations, this is the first time such a building was found.
"This discovery bridges a certain gap in Jerusalem's settlement sequence," excavation directors Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets said.
"The Hasmonean city, which is well-known to us from the historical descriptions that appear in the works of [the Jewish historian] Josephus, has suddenly acquired tangible expression," they said.
Numerous pottery vessels and more than 40 silver and bronze coins were also found in the building.
The building in the City of David just outside Jerusalem's Old City Walls is about four meters (about 13 feet) tall and covers an area of around 64 square meters.
It's walls are more than three feet thick and are made of roughly hewn limestone blocks arranged as headers and stretchers.
"These indicated the structure was erected in the early second century BCE and continued into the Hasmonean period, during which time significant changes were made inside it," the IAA said.