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Section of 1,800-Year-Old Road Discovered in Jerusalem

Greetings from the Roman Empire! Thanks to the need to install a new drainage pipe, archaeologists have dug up for the first time a well-preserved section of an ancient road in the capital.
Newly-discovered section of an ancient highway that led from Yafo (Jaffa) to Jerusalem during the Roman Empire

Newly-discovered section of an ancient highway that led from Yafo (Jaffa) to Jerusalem during the Roman Empire
Photo Credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Archaeological excavation prior to the installation of a drainage pipe has exposed for “the first time…such a finely preserved section of the road in Jerusalem,” the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday.

The ancient road leading from Yafo [Jaffa] to Jerusalem dates to the Roman period of the 2nd-4th centuries was exposed in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

The wide road of approximately 26 feet was bounded on both sides by curbstones and was built of large flat stones fitted to each other in order to create a comfortable surface for walking. Some of the pavers were very badly worn, indicating the extensive use that was made of the road, and over the years the road also underwent a series of repairs.

“Several segments of the road were previously excavated by research expeditions of the IAA, but such a finely preserved section of the road has not been discovered in the city of Jerusalem until now ,” according to David Yeger, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The Romans attached great importance to the roads in the empire,” he added. “They invested large sums of money and utilized the most advanced technological aids of the period in order to crisscross the empire with roads. These served the government, military, economy and public by providing an efficient and safe means of passage.

“Way stations and roadside inns were built along the roads, as well fortresses in order to protect the travelers. The construction and maintenance of the roads was assigned to military units, but civilians also participated in the work as part of the compulsory labor imposed on them by the authorities.”

The road section that was discovered is part of the imperial network of roads that led to Jerusalem from the coastal plain and which are known from both historical sources and archaeological excavations.

Two main arteries led from Yafo to Jerusalem during the Roman period. One is the road that passes through Bet Horon and the other runs via Sha’ar HaGai, west of Jerusalem. This particular segment belongs to the Bet Horon road. The road began in Yafo and passed through Lod where it split it two different directions: one to Sha’ar HaGai and the other by way of Modi’in along the route of what is today Highway 443 to Bet Horon.

From there the road continued until it merged with the highlands road that led to the Old City of Jerusalem.

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