JERUSALEM, Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have found a mysterious podium-like set of stairs on an ancient street in the City of David, an archaeological site of ancient Jerusalem.
The miniature pyramid of steps, located adjacent to he destroyed Second Temple, is estimated to be roughly 2,000 years old. Researchers with Israel's Antiquities Authority announced the discovery on Monday.
"The structure exposed is unique," archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Joe Uziel announced in a news release. "To date such a structure has yet to be found along the street in the numerous excavations that have taken place in Jerusalem and to the best of our knowledge outside of it."
Because such a structure has never been seen before, researchers aren't yet sure of its purpose.
Certainly, it was host to public speaking of some sort. Its lofty position on the crowded streets of ancient Jerusalem would have caught the attention of passersby. But as to the kind of speaking -- news, gossip, street preaching -- researchers can't say for sure.
Some ancient texts, or rabbinic sources, refer to public "stones" used to auction slaves. There are also mentions of "stone of claims," a place to find the rightful owner of lost items (an ancient lost and found).
"Given the lack of a clear archaeological parallel to the stepped-structure, the purpose of the staircase remains a mystery," the researchers said. "It is certainly possible the rabbinical sources provide valuable information about structures, such as this, although for the time being there is no definitive proof."
The street on which the stairs sit is estimated to have been constructed around A.D. 40. It was one of the largest construction projects during the Second Temple period, which ran from 530 B.C. until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70.