Archeological dig in Russian Compound
Archeological dig in Russian CompoundAntiquities Authority

Fascinating evidence found at “the Third Wall” surrounding Jerusalem in the Second Temple period reveals what the battleground was like on the eve of the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans (66-70 C.E.). The artifacts were discovered by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem's city center, about a kilometer outside the present Old City walls and where the new campus for Bezalel Arts Academy is to be constructed.

The archaeologists found remnants of a tower that protruded from the wall, Directly opposite the tower, they uncovered scores of rocks and catapults that Roman battering rams hurled at the wall and the Jewish defenders who stood atop the tower.

Dr. Rena Avner and Kfir Arviv, who carried out the dig under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority stated that, “this is fascinating proof of the intensive shelling carried out by the Romans, led by [General] Titus, in order to conquer the city and destroy the Second Temple. By overcoming the defenders of the Third Wall, the Romans were able to bring their battering rams close to the inner walls and breach them as well." Titus later became emperor of Rome, partly due to his finally becoming victorious in Jerusalem.

Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian born Yosef Ben Matityahu (37-c.100 CE) explains that the wall was intended to protect the newest quarter of the city which had expanded north of its earlier double-walled confines. The Third Wall was constructed by King Agrippa I who stopped construction in order not to anger Roman Emperor Claudius, and to diminish any doubts about his loyalty. The construction of the Third Wall began again 20 years later, continued by the rebel group that named itself Guardians of Jerusalem, in preparation for the Jewish revolt against the Romans.

"Josephus detailed the route of the Third Wall, starting with the Hippicus Tower, identified today as the Tower of David fortress. From there, it went on northwards to the massive Pesephone Tower that protected the northwest corner of the wall and from there, it turned eastward..and descended to the grave of Queen Helena, the place known today as the Tombs of the Kings," said Dr. Avner.

Archaeologists have been arguing over the identification of the Third Wall and the precise urban borders of Jerusalem at the eve of the Roman invasion under Titus since the beginning of the 20th century. The new findings in the Russian Compound are the first evidence of a wall in this area.

The artifacts will be on display at the 10th Conference for Research in Archaeology of Jerusalem to take place on October 26th and 27th of this year.