The Discovery of an Ancient Stone Table Points to the Location of Roman-Era Jerusalem’s Central Marketplace

January 7, 2020 | Amanda Borschel-Dan
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During excavations of the City of David—the most ancient part of Jerusalem—archaeologists recently unearthed a special kind of stone table used for measuring commodities. They believe such a table would be used only by the agoranomos, or marketplace manager. Amanda Borschel-Dan explains its significance:

The measuring table was found in a broad paved central square still undergoing excavation, alongside dozens of stone measurement weights. The sum of the parts has led the archaeologists to conclude that this area of the Stepped Street, a paved 2,000-year-old pilgrims’ path that connects the Siloam Pool with the Temple Mount, had served as ancient Jerusalem’s main market.

Today, the path is sixteen feet underground. Archaeologists and historians call the road that is being excavated under an eastern Jerusalem Arab neighborhood the “Stepped Street.” In more popular parlance it is called the “Pilgrims’ Path” or the “Pilgrimage Road.” In total, the path stretches some 600 meters and is eight meters wide. Both sides of the street were lined with shops that were likely two stories high.

It was built starting in 20 CE by the Romans and completed under the governance of Pontius Pilate in about 30 CE. A recent study of 100 coins collected under pavement at the site appears to confirm this dating.

The position of market manager or agoranomos, well documented in antiquity, arrived in the Land of Israel during the Hellenistic period. It is mentioned in the book of Maccabees. . . . The Roman Jewish historian Josephus also makes reference to the office—and to the Jerusalem square where its holder would have sat.

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