A stretch of ancient Roman road was uncovered last month during salvage excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority south of Beit Shemesh.
The organization announced the uncovering of a 150-meter (164-yard) segment of the ancient road on Tuesday as part of a project initiated by a local water company before laying a pipeline to Jerusalem.
The cobbled path was apparently a spur connecting the ancient town of Bethletepha to the main highway running between Jerusalem and Eleutheropolis (Beit Guvrin).
“The road that we discovered, which 2,000 years ago passed along a route similar to Route 375 today, was up to 6 meters wide, continued for a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers, and 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,'” IAA archaeologist Irina Zilberbod said in a statement.
Bethletepha, known in Hebrew as Beit Natif, was mentioned by Josephus as a town sacked by Vespasian’s army during the First Jewish Revolt, between 66 and 70 CE. The modern Arab village built on the site of the ancient town was depopulated by Israeli forces during the 1948 war.
The new segment of roadway appears to predate the imperial highway, however. In the excavation of the road, carried out by the IAA with volunteers from a nearby high school, archaeologists found coins dating to the second year of the revolt against Rome (67 CE), a coin minted by Roman prefect of Judea Pontius Pilate from 29 CE, a coin minted by Agrippa I from 41 CE, and a later Islamic coin from the Umayyad period.
“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 Kochba revolt in 132-135 CE,” Zilberbod said.
Previous excavations farther up the road turned up milestones with Hadrian’s name upon them.
Since the roadway sits alongside a part of the Israel National Trail, a cross-country hiking route, the IAA said it plans to preserve it on site for visitors.