Archaeologists have begun to ponder about a new mystery near the Western Wall: Why did people invest such huge efforts and resources in hewing such an impressive subterranean system 2,000 years ago, while life was going on in the homes above-ground?

This system, the first of its kind uncovered in the area of the Western Wall Plaza and Tunnels, was exposed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the “Beit Straus” complex, beneath the entrance lobby to the Western Wall Tunnels. The excavations at the site, renewed about a year ago, are being conducted as part of the work to prepare for a new and fascinating tour in addition to the classic Western Wall Tunnels tour run by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. Researchers suppose that the complex was used by Jerusalem residents during the Early Roman period, prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The system was sealed beneath the floor of a large and impressive structure from the Byzantine period, waiting for some 2,000 years to be discovered.

The discovery was made by students of a pre-military preparatory program in Jerusalem. The students have been integrated in archaeological digs as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s educational policy, wishing to connect youth with their past. The system they discovered is composed of an open courtyard and two rooms arranged in three levels one above the other and connected by hewn staircases.

Read more on The Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority