A group of Israeli archaeologists has uncovered a 2000-year-old "unique" underground compound near the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, near the Beit Straus complex.
The excavations beneath the entrance to the Western Wall tunnels exposed a complex featuring two rooms, an open courtyard, and several household objects, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced.
The structure was sealed later in the Byzantine period under the floors of a large building about 1,400 years ago and was left untouched for centuries.
This extraordinary finding could shed light on life in the city prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
"This is a unique finding. This is the first time a subterranean system has been uncovered adjacent to the Western Wall," Dr. Barak Monnickendam-Givon and Tehila Sadiel, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority said in a press release.
"You must understand that 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, like today, it was customary to build out of stone. The question is, why were such efforts and resources invested in hewing rooms underground in the hard bedrock?"
According to Dr. Monnickendam-Givon and Sadiel “The rich array of findings discovered in this excavation shed light on the daily life of the residents of the ancient city."
The Beit Straus complex, which underneath the compound was discovered, was named after the philanthropist Nathan Straus, who purchased the structure near the Western Wall at the beginning of the 20th century and turned it into a soup kitchen.
Director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Mordechai (Suli) Eliav, responded to the findings saying, “I am excited, on the eve of Jerusalem Day, to reveal to the Jewish nation a new treasure trove of impressive and fascinating findings that shed light on life in Jerusalem throughout the generations in general, and on the eve of the destruction in particular."