2,000-Year-Old Roman Road and Coins Discovered in Israel
Archaeologists have discovered an ancient road that connected the Roman Empire to Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago.
The mile-long (1.5-kilometre) road was lined with coins depicting Roman figures, including the perfect Pontius Pilate, who is notorious for his involvement in Jesus’ Crucifixion.
After the field was dug up to make way for a water pipeline to Jerusalem, researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered the ancient road near the village of Mata.
The road, which is 20ft (six metres) wide, once linked Roman settlements in Bet Guvrin and Jerusalem to a main highway known as the ‘Emperor’s Road’.
Irina Zilberbod, an archaeologist who directed the excavation, said: ‘The road that we discovered, which 2,000 years ago passed along a route similar to Highway 375 today, was apparently meant 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 at the time of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the country, circa 130 CE [AD], or slightly thereafter, during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 CE [AD].’
The presence of a milestone (a stone marking distances) bearing the name of the emperor Hadrian discovered nearby reinforces the idea that the road was built during the rule of Emperor Hadrian.
The emperor is best known for building walls around his colossal empire, including Hadrian’s wall in Carlisle.
Coins from the Roman era were found sticking out between the paving stones of the road.
Among them, a coin depicting the prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate dating back to 29AD and a coin from Year Two of the Great Jewish Revolt of 67AD were discovered.
Zilberbod said: ‘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 started to be developed in an unprecedented manner.
‘The Roman government was well aware of the importance of the roads for the proper running of the empire.’
She said that from the main roads, such as the ‘Emperor’s Road’, there were secondary routes that led to the settlements where crops were grown.
‘The grain, oil and wine, which constituted the main dietary basis at the time, where 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,’ she said.
Amit Shadman, the Israel Antiquities Authority district archaeologist for Judah, said: ‘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.’