2000-year-old Roman road exposed in Israel

Israeli archaeologists recently exposed a millennia-old road which served as a vital route for travel and commerce when the Romans ruled Israel. 

A wide and impressive 2,000-year-old road dating to the Roman period, in an extraordinary state of preservation, was revealed in February in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) near Beit Shemesh, in the center of Israel.

The excavation was conducted prior to laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem, leading to the latest archaeological finding to be chanced upon in Israel.  “The road…was up to six meters wide, continued for a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers, and was apparently meant to link the Roman town that existed in the vicinity of Beit Natif with the main highway known as the “Emperor’s Road,” Irina Zilberbod, IAA’s director of the excavation, explained.

The Emperor’s Road was “a main artery that connected the large settlements of Eleutheropolis, Bet Guvrin and Jerusalem. The construction of the Emperor’s Road is thought to have taken place at the time of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the country, circa 130 CE, or slightly thereafter, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE (which took place in the area). The presence of a milestone bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian, which was discovered in the past close to the road, reinforces this hypothesis,” she added. Several ancient coins were discovered between the pavement stones: a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 CE), a coin from the Umayyad period  (661–750 CE), a coin of the prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate, dating to 29 CE and a coin of Agrippa I from 41 CE that was minted in Jerusalem.

Up until 2,000 years ago, when the Romans took power in Israel, most of the roads in the country were actually improvised trails. However during the Roman period, as a result of military and other campaigns, the national and international road network was developed in an unprecedented manner.

The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire. From the main roads, such as the “Emperor’s Road,” there were secondary routes that led to the communities where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main dietary basis at the time, were transported along the secondary routes from the surroundings villages and then, by way of the main roads, to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.

“The ancient road passed close to the Israel National Trail [a hiking track that crosses Israel from north to south] and we believe that it will spark interest among the hikers. The Israel Antiquities Authority and Mei Shemesh Corporation have agreed that the road will be conserved in situ, for the public’s benefit,” Amit Shadman, the IAA district archaeologist for Judah, said.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News