Surveying the work of Israeli archaeologists during 2020—conducted despite numerous pandemic-related obstacles—Lawrence Schiffman highlights some of the most important discoveries:
Five years ago, I walked . . . through the subterranean system of chambers beneath the lobby of the Western Wall tunnels, just north of [Wall itself]. Finally, this past May 22 on Yom Yerushalayim—the anniversary of the day that the city [of Jerusalem] was unified in 1967—archaeologists announced that explorations [of these chambers] were set to begin.
The ruins date to the early Roman period, just before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. They contain a system of rooms—an open courtyard and two rooms on each of three levels, one above the other, connected by staircases carved into stone. Cooking pots, lamps, and other household effects have been found in the rooms. Some have suggested that the complex may have housed a very large mikveh [ritual bath], although it is impossible to say for certain.
The entire area was hidden by a building that was erected there some 1,400 years ago during the Byzantine period. . . . The upper structure had collapse in an earthquake in 1035 CE and was then rebuilt. In the early Middle Ages, there was a synagogue very close to this newly excavated complex. A letter from the Cairo Genizah tells us something about the rebuilding of this synagogue after the same disaster. So while we are not entirely sure what this complex of rooms was used for, it certainly shows us the continuity of Jewish life in Jerusalem in ancient and medieval times.
Read more on Ami Magazine: http://lawrenceschiffman.com/2020-discoveries/