A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Dig at the Wailing Wall
Volume 62 Number 5, September/October 2009
Construction of a visitor's center has given archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) the chance to dig near the Wailing Wall, Judaism's holiest site. While salvage excavations in Jerusalem are common, working so close to this sacred site--some 300 feet from the Temple Mount--is exceedingly rare.
The excavation has added to scholars' understanding of the layout of Roman-period Jerusalem (then known as Aelia Capitolina), when the city was rebuilt under Emperor Hadrian in the early second century A.D. The IAA team unearthed a portion of the Eastern Cardo, a colonnaded street that served as one of the city's two main thoroughfares. The finds' excellent preservation astounded site codirectors Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah and Alexander Onn. "This is the first time in the archaeology of Jerusalem that the whole width of the street has been unearthed," says Weksler-Bdolah.
The 36-foot-wide Cardo was flanked by 16.5-foot-wide sidewalks and lined with shops, all carved into 32 feet of bedrock. "There was a big debate about whether this area was even part of the city of Aelia Capitolina," says Weksler-Bdolah. Most thought it became part of the city in the Byzantine period, between the fourth and the sixth century A.D. "Today, not only do we know that it was included, we also see its monumentality."