When archaeologists were excavating under an abandoned building next to the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City, they eventually hit what could very well be the palace where the trial of Jesus took place before his crucifixion, Washington Post reports. Now, many years later, the discovery is finally being made available to the public.
The route of Via Dolorosa—the path through where Jesus was sentenced, crucified, then buried—has changed over time, and experts have long debated over the location of the trial where Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to death. Other possibilities include the general’s tent at camp or in military barracks. However, many agree that it was the palace of Herod the Great, King of Judea under the Roman Empire during the first century B.C. “There is, of course, no inscription stating it happened here, but everything—archaeological, historical and gospel accounts—all falls into place and makes sense,” says Shimon Gibson from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Pontius Pilate was likely a guest in the palace, and according to descriptions in the New Testament, the trial took place near a gate and on a bumpy stone pavement, details that fit with the archaeological findings.
A team led by the Institute of Archaeology’s Amit Re’em began digging under the old building 15 years ago—peeling away layer by layer—as part of the museum’s expansion plan. The site had been used as a prison under the rule of the Ottoman Turks in the 1800s, followed by the British. Among the remains, Washington Post reports, are symbols etched into jail walls by prisoners from the Jewish resistance in the 1940s, basins used to dye fabrics during the time of the Crusades, and also an ancient underground sewage system.
The musem is now offering two-hour guided tours through Herod’s palace.