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February 11, 2010February 11, 2010  0 comments  Biblical Archaeology

 Upon entering Jerusalem's Old City through Jaffa Gate, you are enveloped in the bustling and colorful David Street, lined with souvenirs shops and local shopkeepers. Now, an archaeological dig has confirmed that this very street has been on the map, literally, for 1,500 years.


The Israel Antiquities Authority announced the find this week. At the time, the thoroughfare was 4.5 meters below the current street level. The road dates from the time when Jerusalem became a Christian city in the Byzantine era. While other locations on the Madaba Map have been discovered, the road had remained hidden until now.


The existence of the road is confirmed on the Madaba Map, an ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem from the 6th century. It is located in a church in Jordan and is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of Israel.


The Madaba Map describes Israel with an emphasis on Christian sites at a time when the country transitioned from paganism to Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is among the identifiable sites on the map. All of the churches on the map are portrayed with red roofs on the map.

Dr. Ofer Sion, director of this excavation, said that after digging through "a number of archeological strata" the team discovered meter-long flagstones of the ancient street.


"It is wonderful to see that David Street, which is teeming with so much life today, actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago," Sion said.


During the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries), Jerusalem was a Christian city. Thousands of Christian pilgrims came to Jerusalem to worship and many left written descriptions of the city and its holy places. The Madaba Map was one of them, showing the city walls, gates, the main streets and the churches. The main throroughfare, the Cardo, was a colonnaded street that bisected the city from north to south.


The IAA said that the 8- by 16-meter Madaba Map also clearly showed an entrance to Jerusalem from the west through a large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city. Excavations had never been performed in this area since it is still a main thoroughfare in the Old City frequented by tourists and locals alike. However, the dig will continue now allowing tourists to catch a rare glimpse of history.


The flagstones found were cracked from the burden of centuries. Next to the road archaeologists also discovered a stone foundation which supported a sidewalk and a row of columns. Other artifacts discovered in the excavations include pottery vessels, coins and five small square bronze weights that shopkeepers once used for weighing precious metals.


During the Middle Ages, a very large building that faced the street was constructed on the stone foundation of the Byzantine period. Later, during the Mamluk period (13th to 14th centuries) rooms were built inside this structure, apparently used as shops and storerooms. Beneath this building, right below the street that runs between David's Citadel and David Street and leads to the Armenian Quarter, is a cistern, 8 x 12 meters and 5 meters deep, which supplied water to its occupants.


By Nicole Jansezian for Travelujah.com

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