An ornate 2,000-year-old villa with a private mikveh, or ritual bath, is one of the oldest structures in Jerusalem.

Millions of worshipers and tourists visit the Western Wall every year. Visitors usually have to descend 142 steps to reach the holy site.

Permission was given to a development company to build two elevators for better disabled access to make the 85-foot (26 meter) descent beside the existing steps at the edge of the Old City's Jewish Quarter.

An undisturbed plot of land inside the Old City gave us an excellent opportunity to dig through all the layers of the city, both past and present.


There is a Roman-era building under the Western Wall.

At least five different phases of the ancient city's extensive history were discovered in the archaeological excavations that ended a few months ago. Legal requirements mean that the elevators won't be up and running until at least 2025.

Wailing wall

Herod the Great built the Western Wall in the first century B.C. to support the Temple Mount.

The Jewish "Second Temple" was built on the site of the First Temple built by the biblical King Solomon and was part of Herod's extensive program to expand and improve the Temple Mount.

The Second Temple and other structures on Temple Mount were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. The Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock were built in the 7th century.

Overview of an excavation site. There are 3 different sized rectangular holes all filled with water. Buckets are lying around the site, as are several wooden ladders.

The excavations at the southwestern end of the Western Wall Plaza have revealed artifacts and structures from at least five different periods of the ancient city's history. (Image credit: Michal Haber/Hebrew University)

Jews are not allowed to pray at the site of the Second Temple, which was located near the Dome of the Rock, because of modern entry restrictions to the top of Temple Mount.

One of the most sacred places in Judaism is the Western Wall, which was once the temple's inner sanctum.

In the West, it's known as the "Wailing Wall" due to the fact that it's common for worshippers to weep there over the destruction of the Jewish temple.

Ancient aqueduct

The first image of two.

The terracotta water pipes were installed by the Ottoman rulers in the 19th century. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

The Ottoman-Arab water pipes are being recorded with 3D digital scans. The image was provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archeologist Oren Gutfeld told Live Science that terracotta pipes were installed during the Ottoman period in Jerusalem.

The Hasmonean or Herodian aqueduct was a base for the pipes. The Second Temple-period aqueduct did not survive in some places, but they built the new pipes.

A 3,000-year-old temple has been found in Israel.

The image is the first of three.

The oil lamp is from the beginning of Jerusalem's occupation by Muslims. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

The Ottoman-era pipes were found by the archaeologists at the site. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

Fragments of pottery from the Byzantine period from about the fourth until the seventh centuries A.D. were also found. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

Pottery and oil lamps from the Mamluk period of Jerusalem's history were found by the archaeologists, as well as artifacts from the Byzantine period.

Jerusalem was rebuilt as a pagan Roman city called Aelia Capitolina after the Second Temple had been destroyed. There is a temple to the god on the Temple Mount.

The Romans may have built a pool of water above the remains of a brick oven to bake bread. The full name of the Roman 10th legion that made the bricks is LXF.

Wealthy villa

Three intact pottery cooking vessels. They have a bulbous shape with 2 small handles on either side at the top. There is a builder’s trowel in front of them.

These intact pottery cooking vessels were found in a water cistern that supplied the ritual bath of the villa. (Image credit: Michal Haber/Hebrew University)

The villa that was occupied by the wealthy was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. There are many cooking pots, some of them still intact, and a plastered water cistern that fed a private bath.

According to Gutfeld, Jewish law forbade filling ritual baths by hand, instead they could only be filled by rain or water from another source.

The image is the first of four.

Jewish religious law required a private ritual bath, or mikveh, to be located down from the villa. The image was provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Beneath the villa, the steps of the ritual bath were cut into the limestone bedrock. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

There was a vaulted stone ceiling in the mikveh. There was water in the picture. The image is courtesy of the Hebrew University.

Communal ritual baths were a common occurrence in Jewish neighborhoods. The private mikveh could have only been used by the rich. The image was provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Second Temple, which was still in use at the time of the villa's occupation, would have been for very wealthy people.

He said that their villa is unique because it is on a cliff next to the Temple Mount. It was close to the temple and must have been one of the best real estate in Jerusalem.

The villa has a ritual bath. She said that the Herodian-era mikveh was moving.

It was originally published on Live Science