You never know what you’ll find when you dig into a 2,000 year old city.
During a construction project at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel, to install an elevator as part of an effort to increase access for people with disabilities, archaeologists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem made new discoveries, according to the Associated Press.
The main find of “an ornate first-century villa with its own ritual bath” was unearthed during years of salvage excavations, which are carried out before any modern construction so that researchers and archaeologists can remove the artifacts s there are.
Inside the villa were “fragments of intricate frescoes and mosaics”, but archaeologist Oren Gutfeld said the final find was a private Jewish ritual bath. Michal Haber, an archaeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, added that the location of the bath was important because it overlooked the Temple esplanade and showed the wealth of the owners.
“We are in the wealthy part of town on the eve of its destruction,” Haber said.
The Jewish Quarter Reconstruction and Development Society began the construction project in 2017 with the aim of building two elevators so that visitors can get to the Western Wall much more easily from the Jewish Quarter.
Previously, people had to descend a flight of 142 steps to descend 85 feet from place to place. If they could not physically descend the stairs, visitors had to take a long walk around the city walls to an entrance gate.
“This plot of land where the elevator is going to be built has remained untouched, giving us the great opportunity to dig through all the strata, all the layers of ancient Jerusalem,” Haber told the AP.
During construction, archaeologists found a number of other ancient artifacts in addition to the villa, including oil lamps and Roman army bricks.
“Historic crossing points included Ottoman pipes built into a 2,000-year-old aqueduct that supplied Jerusalem with water from springs near Bethlehem; early Islamic oil lamps; bricks bearing the name of the 10th Legion, the army which besieged, destroyed and was then encamped in Jerusalem two millennia ago; and the remains of the villa of Judea of the last days before the destruction of the ancient Jewish temple in the year 70.