Excavation Uncovers Evidence of ‘Third Wall’ of Jerusalem’s Old City Breached by Romans 2,000 Years Ago
JNS.org – Archaeologists have located the site of an ancient battle during which the Romans breached Jerusalem’s walls, before conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple 2,000 years ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Thursday.
The discovery of ballista, or ancient catapults, and sling stones surrounding the remains of a tower protruding from the so-called “Third Wall” of the Old City confirm descriptions in the wartime accounts of historian Josephus Flavius. Josephus wrote that the wall began near Hippicus Tower, now identified as David’s Citadel, and continued north to the Psephinus Tower, before turning east toward the Tomb of Queen Helena, or the Tombs of the Kings. The IAA finding is the first modern corroboration of its existence.
“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple,” IAA excavation directors Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib said. “The bombardment was intended to attack the [Jewish] sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses.”
Archaeologists have long wondered about the “Third Wall” Josephus discussed in his eyewitness reports of the Romano-Jewish war. The wall — designed to protect a newly constructed quarter of Jerusalem called Beit Zeita — was first conceived by King Agrippa I in 40 BCE. It was completed 20 years later by the defenders of Jerusalem to fortify the city during the Great Revolt against Rome.
The artifacts were uncovered last winter during excavation of a construction site in the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem for a new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.