Thousands of people stream through the Be'er Sheva Central Bus Station daily – but few of them realize that just a stone's throw away, thousands of others were doing the same, more than 500 years before them.
Now dozens of people are digging with determination as they uncover the remains of what was once Byzantine Be'er Sheva.
There have been a few similar excavations around the area in the past several years, including “area C behind the shuk (market - Ed.), and there are a few either going on now, or about to begin in the near future,” according to Tamar Gresser, a third-year archaeology student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who is participating in the Central Bus Station dig.
Some 70 workers are divided between two areas, each with a supervisor and an assistant. Each area is divided into 4 x 4-meter squares, with a meter in between. So far, there are about 25 “active” squares.
“We've found a few large rooms at floor level preservation, with a lot of fallen walls, and a few floors,” Gresser said in an exclusive interview with Arutz Sheva. “The interesting part are underground rooms which were dug into the natural earth, underneath the houses. The rooms are easy to detect because they are filled with very soft dirt, very different from the rock-hard natural earth. Most of these rooms will have a wall or two to strengthen the sides or the opening.”
So far, the archaeologists have found broken jars and numerous coins – so many, in fact, that in one of the rooms, “we found 52 coins in one day," Gresser said. "We think they may have been in a cloth or leather bag that decayed over the years, resulting in them being found scattered. That was exciting!”
The bus station excavation is being carried out due to planned renovations to the facility. The dig is being run by the Israel Antiquities Authority, which carried out nearly all of the “rescue excavations” in the country.