Excavating a portion of the Western Wall that has been sunken into the earth for nearly 1,700 years, Israeli researchers have found a theater-like structure they believe to have been built by the Romans around 130 CE. Their findings shed light on a period in Jerusalem’s history—after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE—about which little is known. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
The small 200- to 300-seat theater, whose existence was noted by [the historian] Flavius Josephus and other ancient sources but which has eluded Jerusalem excavations for some 150 years, is the first rediscovered example of a Roman public building in Jerusalem, archaeologists said.
In 70 CE, the Second Temple was razed along with most of the Jewish settlement of Jerusalem. In its place, the Roman colony Aelia Capitolina was established and named after the Roman god Jupiter and the emperor Hadrian (also known as Aelius), who began reconstructing the city in 130 CE. Following the bloody Bar Kokhba revolt of circa 132–136 CE, Jews were banned from the capital aside from on Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning commemorating the destruction of the Temple. . . .
The team expects to continue excavations until next spring. Joe Uziel, [one of the archaeologists leading the team], said while he cannot know [for certain], he expects to reach First Temple-period remains. . . .
[I]t appears that the theater was not fully finished. The stairs are not fully hewn and there are rocks that have guide marks but weren’t fully carved. [Uziel] speculated that perhaps the Bar Kokhba revolt interrupted its construction. . . . The theater and other finds from previous excavations give “a hint” into the importance of the Temple Mount following the fall of the Second Temple, said [another archaeologist].
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