A multi-year excavation in Jerusalem’s ancient “City of David” has revealed a 2,000-year-old walkway believed to have been commissioned by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who allegedly ordered the crucifixion of Jesus.
Archaeologists operating within the boundaries of Jerusalem Walls-City of David National Park uncovered a 220-meter-long section of an ancient street, first uncovered by British archaeologists in 1894. It is believed that the 2,000-year-old street was commissioned by Pilate and served as a walkway for religious followers, leading from the Pool of Siloam, a sacred Christian rock-cut pool located just outside of the city in the south, to the Temple Mount, an important holy site in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The street measures 600 meters long and about 8 meters wide and is paved with large stone slabs that were commonly used during the Roman Empire. Writing in the journal Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, archaeologists estimate that it would have taken 10,000 tons of quarried limestone rock and great skill to construct the road. The street itself was found under layers of rubble believed to be from when the Romans captured and destroyed the city in 70 CE. Found within the rubble were weapons, arrowheads, burnt trees, and collapsed stones from nearby buildings.
But more interesting are the more than 100 coins that were found beneath the paving stone, each dating back to between 17 and 31 CE – the time Pontius Pilate ruled over the ancient city.
"Dating using coins is very exact," said co-author and coin expert Donald T. Ariel in a statement. "As some coins have the year in which they were minted on them, what that means is that if a coin with the date 30 CE on it is found beneath the street, the street had to be built in the same year or after that coin had been minted, so any time after 30 CE."
"However, our study goes further, because statistically, coins minted some 10 years later are the most common coins in Jerusalem, so not having them beneath the street means the street was built before their appearance, in other words only in the time of Pilate."
According to the study authors, there would be no need to build such a grand street “if this was a simple walkway connecting point A to point B.” Its massive size coupled with “finely carved stone and ornate ‘furnishings’” indicates that the street was of great importance and perhaps acted as a pilgrimage route to link the two holy sites.
"Part of it may have been to appease the residents of Jerusalem, part of it may have been about the way Jerusalem would fit in the Roman world, and part of it may have been to aggrandize his name through major building projects," said co-author Nahshon Szanton.
Pilate was a Roman and the fifth governor of Judaea between 26 and 36 CE. According to Christian scripture, he presided at the trial of Jesus and ultimately ordered his crucifixion.