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Excavation uncovers evidence supporting mosaic Jerusalem map
BY MARK REBACZ
11/02/2010
The map, from the Byzantine period, is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Land of Israel.
 
For the first time the main road of Jerusalem, dated 1,500 years ago, has been discovered. An Israel Antiquities Authority archeological excavation in the heart of Jerusalem’s old city confirms a description of the road on the Madaba Map – an ancient mosaic map from the sixth century CE, measuring eight by 16 meters, and located in a church in Madaba, Jordan.

The map, from the Byzantine period, is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Land of Israel. What is notable on the map is the illustration of the entrance to Jerusalem from the west via a very large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city.

Various evidence of the important buildings in Jerusalem that appear on the map has been uncovered over the years, but the large bustling street from the period when Jerusalem became a Christian city has not been discovered until now. The reason is that no archeological excavations have taken place in the region due to its centrality and the general busyness of the area.

But now, because of the need for a thorough treatment of the infrastructure at the location, the Jerusalem Development Authority has initiated rehabilitation work and is renewing the area’s infrastructure.

Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director of the site, recalls, “After removing a number of archeological strata, at a depth of 4.5 meters below today’s street level, much to our excitement we discovered the large flagstones that paved the street.”

The flagstones, more than a meter long each, bear cracks from the burden of centuries.

According to Dr. Sion, “It is wonderful to see that David Street, which is teeming with so much life today, actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago.”
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