Lost 200-seat Roman theatre revealed near Jerusalem's Western Wall

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Tehillah Lieberman stands next to a part of the Western W

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Roman theatre near to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Independent reported.

The discovery was made under Wilson's Arch in the Old City, where researchers from the Israel Antiquity Authority have been excavating the site for the last two years.

Unlike larger, open-air Roman auditoriums, the amphitheatre was likely meant to be an odeon, for musical performances, or a city council meeting hall known as a bouleuterion, the Israel Antiquites Authority said.

However, for leaders of the dig, the Roman theater's unearthing was the most thrilling discovery.

The theatre is the first example of a rediscovered Roman public building in Jerusalem. During that time, the arch was used as a passageway for worshipers into the Temple compound. An aqueduct also passed over the arch.

The discoveries are being presented to the public for the first time during this week's "New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Environs" conference held in Jerusalem, marking 50 years of archaeological research in Israel's capital since its reunification. These descriptions are found in written sources from the Second Temple period (such as Josephus Flavius), and in sources from the period following the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jerusalem became the Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina. "The discovery was a real surprise", said the archaeologists who discovered the historical structure. "When we approached the excavation in order to date Wilson's Arch, we didn't imagine that it would open a glimpse into the mystery of Jerusalem's lost theater".

"From a research perspective, this is a sensational find", Dr Joe Uziel, one of the excavators at the site, said at a press conference Monday morning. "But at the end of the process, other findings - surprising and thought-provoking - are unearthed".

"One of the unbelievable things is that because we're beneath an arch, they would have had the arch to use as their roof", Uziel said.

However, the archaeologists believed that the theater was never used and it was abandoned before it was put into operation.

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