It’s a yard-wide piece of limestone, weighs about a ton, is about 2,000 years old and is priceless — to archeologists, that is.
Discovered recently during salvage excavations at the opening of a deep cistern near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, the artifact is valuable because its six lines of Latin text include the name of Hadrian, the Emperor of Rome in 117-138 C.E., when Rome controlled the Holy Land.
The slab, which was found on Nablus Road, was publically displayed for the first time last week by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
“This is an extraordinary find of enormous historical importance,” said IAA archeologist Rina Avner, above, displaying the stone outside Jerusalem’s Rockefeller Museum. In a statement, she called the stone “a once in a lifetime” find — “if at all.”
The slab was part of a monumental arch dedicated by the Roman Legion in the year 129/130 C.E. before Hadrian’s visit; two years later, a Jewish uprising, the Bar Kochba Revolt, began.
The stone is one of the few such artifacts with Latin inscriptions from that period that mentions the name and titles of Hadrian, as well as a clear date.
It sheds light on the timeline of Jerusalem’s reconstruction by Rome in 70 C.E., Avner said. “It provides us with an exact date for the official construction of the city. It indicates that there was monumental, official construction projects in the city at least two years before the Bar Kochba Revolt.”
She said other significant Roman artifacts from the same period probably remain under other buildings on Nablus Road.