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Dig reshapes ancient Jerusalem

Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a wall beyond Jerusalem's old boundaries, showing that the city built by biblical King David may have been much larger than previously thought.
Image: 2,000-year-old remains of a building, just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City
Israeli archaeologists digging in an east Jerusalem parking lot say they have uncovered a 2,000-year-old mansion they believe may have belonged to Queen Helene of Adiabene, a minor but exceptional character in the city's history.Tsilla Sagiv / Israel Antiquities Authority via AP
/ Source: Reuters

Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a wall beyond Jerusalem's old boundaries, showing that the city built by biblical King David may have been much larger than previously thought.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said it believed the 16-foot-high (5-meter-high) wall was part of a two-story structure demolished in A.D. 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the second Jewish temple built by King Herod.

"According to our findings, ancient Jerusalem ... was much larger than previously thought," Doron Ben-Ami of the authority told a news conference near the excavation site.

Ben-Ami believes the structure may have been a section of a palace belonging to Queen Helena of Mesopotamia, who converted to Judaism in the first century and left behind her kingdom in modern-day Iraq to settle in Jerusalem.

The wall was found beneath a parking lot about 300 meters (1,000 feet) south of the area known as the Temple Mount to Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

Ben-Ami said narrow openings discovered at the bottom of the wall may have been used by inhabitants to flee the building as the Romans smashed it to pieces during the sacking of Jerusalem.

"We know that the structure was not destroyed by fire but it was destroyed purposely by dismantling its walls, which were made of stones," Ben-Ami explained.

The excavations yielded artifacts dating back to the early Islamic, Byzantine and Hellenistic eras, as well as the first and second Temple periods.

The Temple Mount was the site of the ancient second Jewish temple, the only remnant of which is the Western Wall, the holiest shrine for Jews.