Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists say they’ve found evidence of the battlefield and the breaching of the Third Wall that surrounded Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple period.

The new finds were made during an excavation in the city center, where the new campus of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design is to be built.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western facade were scores of ballista and sling stones that they attribute to Roman forces firing from catapults towards the Jewish guards defending the wall.

A 2,000-year-old jar. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority
A 2,000-year-old jar. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

The archaeologists also say pottery discovered at the site suggests this battlefield dates back to Roman times.

“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple. The bombardment was intended to attack the sentries guarding the wall and provide cover for the Roman forces so they could approach the wall with battering rams and thereby breach the city’s defenses,” said Dr. Rina Avner and Kfir Arbib, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Israel Antiquities Authority scientists say their discovery could end an unresolved debate among researchers of the identity of the Third Wall and the question concerning Jerusalem’s boundaries on the eve of the Roman onslaught led by Titus. They say their new discovery in the Russian Compound quarter of Jerusalem is proof of the wall’s existence in this area.

The archaeologists say historian Josephus, an eye witness to the war, provided many details about the Third Wall, noting it was designed to protect a neighborhood called Beit Zeita, which was built outside the city’s boundaries at the time.

Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority
Dr. Rina Avner, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in Jerusalem. Photo by Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

The building of the Third Wall is said to have been begun by Agrippa I, King of Judea, and finished two decades later by the defenders of Jerusalem, as part of fortifying the city and the Jewish rebels’ preparations for the Great Revolt against Rome.

Of course, that revolt was ultimately unsuccessful, and in 70 CE, the Romans destroyed much of Jerusalem — including the Second Temple.