Archaeologists Uncover Ancient Street in Jerusalem

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Israeli archaeologists announced they have uncovered one of Jerusalem's ancient streets. The discovery marks the latest revelation of Jerusalem's past.

The archaeological dig lies just inside the Jaffa Gate near the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. The excavation uncovered the main road leading into Jerusalem during the Byzantine Period, 1,500 years ago. Thousands of Christians used this road to make their pilgrimage into the Holy City.

"Christians used to come through the gate and to go down. Hundreds, hundreds of thousands in the Byzantine Period. It was a very crowded street, shops, camels, donkeys, people running," archaeologist Ofer Sion said.

Sion said the street would have been very much like the busy streets of Jerusalem today. The road also confirms the accuracy of one of the most famous maps of ancient times, the Madaba Map.

Made in the sixth or seventh century, this mosaic is the only known map of Jerusalem from that period. It marks the churches in Jerusalem at that time, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Archaeologist Sion used the map to locate the street.

"We knew that this street exists here but to find it, to put your hand on, it was very important," Sion said.

Looking at the excavation is like peering back into the layers of Jerusalem's history: from the Ottoman Empire, the Mamluk Era, the time of the crusaders, then the Muslim period all the way down to the Byzantine Empire.

During the dig, they found pottery, coins and jewelry. They even found weights used in commerce. They also discovered a medieval cistern used to store water.

It's one more example of the many new finds being uncovered in the Holy Land with the promise of more to come.

"We will see if there are some other things (in) this street level. We will see. You know, archaeology is a lot of surprises," Sion said.

*Originally published February 12, 2010.

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