2,000-year-old Roman Road Discovered Near Israel's Beit Shemesh

Coins from Jewish Revolt and Pontius Pilate eras found between pavestones of road, which led to Emperor Hadrian’s highway.

Nir Hasson
Ruth Schuster
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 2,000-year-old Roman road discovered near Beit Shemesh
2,000-year-old Roman road discovered near Beit Shemesh Credit: Griffen Aerial Photos, Courtesy IAA
Nir Hasson
Ruth Schuster

A beautifully preserved stretch of Roman road, about 2,000 years old, was uncovered near Beit Shemesh in February during earthworks ahead of laying a water pipeline to Jerusalem. A few rare coins from different periods were found between the paving stones, including one dating to 29 CE, a coin minted by Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea, a coin from the second year of the Great Jewish Revolt of 67-70 C.E., and one from the Umayyad period (661-750 C.E.).

The unearthed section of road stretches 1.5 kilometers and is six meters wide, and is near the Israel Trail, notes the Israel Antiquities Authority. It is also near Highway 375.

The road apparently linked the Roman settlement found by Beit Natif with the main highway known as the Emperor’s Road, which connected Eleutheropolis (Bet Guvrin) and Jerusalem, said Irina Zilberbod, the IAA director of the excavation.

2,000-year-old Roman road discovered near Beit Shemesh Credit: Assaf Peretz, IAA

Led by General Pompey, the Romans conquered Judea in 63 C.E., ending the era of Hasmonean rule. Jewish resistance to the Roman regime rumbled throughout, spiking into ultimately disastrous rebellions: the Great Jewish Revolt of 67-70 CE, and the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132-135 C.E., which led to the scattering of the Jews in the Diaspora.

The Emperor’s Road itself is thought to have been built at the time of Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the country around 130 C.E., while suppressing the Bar Kokhba Revolt, or slightly thereafter, Zilberbod said. Evidence backing this hypothesis is the earlier discovery of a milestone, a stone marking distances, bearing Hadrian’s name, nearby.

The Romans were famous for building roads throughout their empire, which served not only to move military forces efficiently but for commerce, and their remains can be found throughout Israel. From main routes such as the Emperor’s Road, secondary routes would branch off to farming settlements selling produce, grains, oil and wine to markets in Israel and abroad.

The road section will be preserved in situ, said Amit Shadman, the IAA district archaeologist for Judah.

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