The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday afternoon the discovery of a large-sized house from the Second Temple Period several dozen meters south of the Temple Mount. The remains were excavated in the well-known Givati Parking Lot, just outside the entrance to the Western Wall.
Writings of the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus Flavius (Joseph son of Matityahu) indicate that the uncovered building may well have belonged to the family of Queen Helene, who converted to Judaism in the 1st Century BCE. However, excavation chief Dr. Doron Ben-Ami said that this may or may not be true, "and we can only hope that we will discover more findings that will help us identify this building with certainty."
The find includes massive foundations, walls whose remains soar five meters high in some places, two-story-tall halls, a basement, ritual baths (mikvaot), remains of colored frescoes, and more. The archaeologists say they can see, in the narrow openings discovered in the basement level, evidence of the drama that transpired in the structure prior to its destruction by the Romans. It appears that the inhabitants attempted to flee through the openings. Attempts were also made to destroy the structure at the time.
The large edifice was overlain with remains dating to later periods: Byzantine, Roman and Early Islamic, while below it there are remains from the Early Hellenistic period, and even artifacts from the time of the First Temple.
The dig is being carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority together with the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David (City of David) Foundation.
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority