Byzantine-era street uncovered in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) - Archaeologists said Wednesday that they have unearthed a section of a stone street in Jerusalem that provides important new evidence about the city's commercial life 1,500 years ago.

The 19-foot (5.8-meter) section of street passes from the west into the center of Jerusalem's Old City, coming to a stop at a large cistern that supplied water to the city's residents. Pottery, coins and bronze weights used to measure precious metals from Byzantine times were also found at the site.

The discovery conforms to the layout of the city depicted in a mosaic map discovered earlier in a Jordanian church, said excavation director Ofer Sion of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The map has long been used as a guide to understanding the shape of the city during the 4th through 6th centuries and the discovery of the street proves the map is correct.

"This street was the centerduring the most (commercially) successful period in the history of (ancient) Jerusalem," he said. "It is wonderful that (today's street) actually preserved the route of the noisy street from 1,500 years ago."

Working from the historic map, archaeologists three months ago uncovered covered the section of street 14 feet (4.3 meters) below the current street level.

The map, taken from a Byzantine-era church in Madaba, Jordan, shows the locations of major streets and the Christian sites in the city, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where the faithful believe Jesus was buried.

Once restoration work is completed, within the next few weeks, the segment of street will be covered because of heavy pedestrian traffic in the area, Sion said.

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