Archaeologists in Israel have shown a freshly discovered Second Temple era structure.
The magnificent building, located near Jerusalem’s Western Wall, was erected between 20 and 30 CE, barely a few decades before the Romans demolished the city’s Temple Mount.
The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced on Thursday that sections of the building would soon be open to the public as part of the Western Wall Tunnels itinerary.
The building, which archaeologists suspect was built to welcome dignitaries and elites to the Temple Mount, was first documented by Charles Warren in the nineteenth century.
Portions of the building were later uncovered by archaeologists throughout the 20th century.
More recently, archaeologists were able to uncover the entire footprint of the original building, revealing the walls of two tremendous halls separated by an elaborate flowing fountain.
The walls of the hall and fountain were adorned by sculpted cornice bearing pilasters, or flat supporting pillars, crowned with Corinthian capitals — design characteristics typical of the opulent architecture of the Second Temple period.
“These chambers are part of a new walk through the Western Wall Tunnels,” Mordechai Soli Eliav, chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, said in a press release.
“Visitors will view fascinating finds and walk for the first time along the entire route among Second Temple-period remains that illustrate the complexity of Jewish life in Jerusalem between the Hasmonean and the Roman periods,” Eliav said.
Aside from the enormous reception halls, archaeologists uncovered numerous massive stone slabs that constituted the whole foundation of the structure.
According to the size of the foundation, numerous guest rooms, including reclining dining rooms, were added to the hallways.
“This is without doubt one of the most magnificent public building from the Second Temple period that has ever been uncovered outside the Temple Mount walls in Jerusalem,” said Shlomit Weksler-Bdolach, the Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavation director.
Archaeologists believe that visitors visiting the Western Wall Tunnels will acquire a better understanding of the breadth and splendour of the buildings that inhabited Jerusalem’s Old City during the Second Temple period, approximately 2,000 years ago.
“It creates a new visitors’ route that passes through the building and leads to the spacious compound at the foot of Wilson’s Arch, one of the bridges leading to the Temple Mount,” said Shachar Puni, architect for the Israel Antiquities Authority’s conservation department.
“By making the route accessible and opening it to the public, visitors are introduced to one of the most fascinating and impressive sites in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Puni said.