In 2017, construction began on two elevators designed to take visitors and worshippers to the Western Wall. It was soon halted when it became clear that the site contained an archaeological treasure trove. Six years later, the subsequent excavation has ended, and construction of the elevators can begin. Ilan Ben Zion describes what they found:
During their dig, the archaeologists carefully peeled back successive layers of construction and debris that had accumulated over two millennia, over 9 meters (30 feet) in total. Historical waypoints included Ottoman pipes built into a 2,000-year-old aqueduct that supplied Jerusalem with water from springs near Bethlehem; early Islamic oil lamps; bricks stamped with the name of the 10th Legion, the Roman army that besieged, destroyed, and was afterwards encamped in Jerusalem two millennia ago; and the remains of the Judean villa from the final days before the ancient Jewish Temple’s destruction in the year 70.
Fragments of frescoes and intricate mosaics from the villa indicated the wealth of the home’s occupants. But upon reaching bedrock, [the archaeologists] made one last find: a private Jewish ritual bath hewn into the limestone mountainside and vaulted with enormous dressed stones.
[Hebrew University’s Michal] Haber said the most significant thing about the bath, known as a mikveh, was its location overlooking the Temple esplanade. “We are in the wealthy neighborhood of the city on the eve of its destruction,” she said.