March 13, 2017
A wide and impressive 2,000-year-old road dating to the Roman period, in an extraordinary state of preservation, was revealed last month in archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority near Bet Shemesh.
The excavation was conducted prior to laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem, at the initiative of, the Bet Shemesh water corporation "Mei Shemesh". Students from "Ulpanat Amit Noga" in Ramat Bet Shemesh volunteered to participate in the dig.
According to Irina Zilberbod, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The 2,000-year-old road that we discovered runs along the route of Highway 375, it measured up to 6 meters wide, continued for a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers, and was apparently aimed to link the Roman settlement that existed in the vicinity of Beit Natif with the main highway known as the "Emperor's Road". That road was in fact 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 around the time of Emperor Hadrian's visit to the country, circa 130 CE, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE. The presence of a milestone (a stone marking distances) bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian, which was previously discovered close to the road, reinforces this hypothesis".
Coins were discovered between the pavement stones: a coin from Year 2 of the Great Revolt (67 CE), a coin from the Umayyad period, 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 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 were 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”, came out secondary routes that led to the settlements where all of the agricultural products were grown. The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main dietary basis at the time, where transported from the surroundings villages along the secondary routes, and then by way of the main roads to the large markets in Israel and even abroad.
According to Amit Shadman, the Israel Antiquities Authority district archaeologist for Judah, “The ancient road passed close to the Israel National Trail 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”.
Photo credits: Clara Amit, Irina Zilberbod, Asaf Peretz, The Griffin Aerial Photography Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority,