Excavations carried out last month by the Israel Antiquities Authority uncovered a Roman road dating back 2,000 years ago.
The impressive man-made structure had been beautifully preserved beneath the ground in Bet Shemesh, near the modern Highway 375.
The ancient road stunned archaeologists not only by the impeccable state in which it was conserved but also through its impressive size: it was found to measure around 6 meters in width (or approximately 20 feet) and stretched on a distance of almost 1.5 kilometers (or about a mile).
Further examinations revealed it was associated with the famed Emperor's Road, an imposing transportation artery built during Emperor Hadrian's visit to this region, circa 130 A.D. Other historical accounts place the famous ancient highway a few years after, in the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt — between 132 and 135 A.D.
According to Amit Shadman, the IAA's district archaeologist for Judah, due to its location — close to the Israel National Trail — the ancient road will undoubtedly spark interest among hikers and therefore "will be conserved in situ, for the public's benefit."
A Prosperous Route
Irina Zilberbod, IAA director of the excavation, believes the newly discovered ancient road had an important function for the region's society. It was designed to connect the Roman settlement thriving in the proximity of Beit Natif to the main transportation route, in this case, the Emperor's Road.
As Zilberbod explains in an IAA news release, the Emperor's Road was actually a highway designed to link the large settlements of Eleutheropolis (Bet Guvrin) to Jerusalem.
Archaeologists base these suppositions on the previous discovery of a milestone in the vicinity, which had been engraved with emperor's name.
Greatly expanded during the Roman occupation, roads in this region evolved from mere rudimentary trails to a thriving network of routes that connected agricultural villages to the main artery.
They also served a significant commercial purpose, being used for the transportation of grain, oil, and wine to large markets in the area as well as abroad.
If Stones Could Speak: The Cobblestones' Secret Treasure
While closely examining the paving stones, archaeologists were amazed to come upon an assortment of ancient coins from different periods pertaining to the same timeline.
One of the recovered coins was dated from the second year of the Great Revolt (67 A.D.), and another coin came from the Umayyad period.
A third coin depicting Pontius Pilate, the prefect of Judea, dates back to 29 A.D.
The fourth coin discovered, dated 41 A.D., was manufactured in Jerusalem and adorned with the image of Agrippa I.