Main E-W Byzantine Road uncovered in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced today the discovery of the main East-West road of Jerusalem from the Byzantine period. Todd Bolen correctly guessed yesterday, after the IAA sent out a teaser, that this discovery would be the Decumanus of the city.

A portion of the broken flagstone pavement is shown below about 4.5 meters below the present street level. That is 14.76 feet — pretty close to the proverbial one-foot-per-century of debris buildup.

Remains of 1500 year old street. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Remains of 1500 year old street. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy IAA.

Below is a photo of the Madaba [Medeba], Jordan, mosaic map of Jerusalem from about A.D. 560-565. I have put red lines on each side of the road that has been discovered. The main north-south road, the Cardo, was discovered in the 1970s.

The original Madaba mosaic map with new discovery marked. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The original Madaba mosaic map with new discovery marked. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The IAA explains how the excavation came about.

Various evidence of the important buildings in Jerusalem that appear on the map has been uncovered over the years or has survived to this day – for example the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – but the large bustling street from the period when Jerusalem became a Christian city has not been discovered until now. The reason for this is that no archaeological excavations took place in the region due to the inconvenience it would cause in stopping traffic in such a busy central location.

Now, because of the need for a thorough treatment of the infrastructure in the region, the Jerusalem Development Authority has initiated rehabilitation work and is renewing the infrastructure in this area in general, and next to the entrance to David Street (known to tourists as the stepped-street with the shops) in particular. Thus it is possible for both archaeologists and the public to catch a rare glimpse of what is going on beneath the flagstone pavement that is so familiar to us all.

The full IAA report is here. The Arutz Sheva article includes a short video featuring an interview with Dr. Ofer Sion, the excavation director.

HT: Joseph Lauer

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