People walk inside a 2,000 year old luxurious banquet hall erected near the Temple Mt. during the Second Temple Period uncovered in the Western Wall tunnels on Thursday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
July 8 (UPI) -- Archaeologists in Israel have unveiled a newly uncovered building from the Second Temple period.
The grandiose structure, located near Jerusalem's Western Wall, was built between 20 and 30 CE, only a few decades before the city's Temple Mount was destroyed by the Romains.
On Thursday, officials with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation announced that portions of the building will soon be accessible to the public as part of the the Western Wall Tunnels itinerary.
The building, which archaeologists suspect was built to welcome dignitaries and elites to the Temple Mount, was first documented by Charles Warren in the nineteenth century.
Portions of the building were later uncovered by archaeologists throughout the 20th century.
More recently, archaeologists were able to uncover the entire footprint of the original building, revealing the walls of two tremendous halls separated by an elaborate flowing fountain.
The walls of the hall and fountain were adorned by sculpted cornice bearing pilasters, or flat supporting pillars, crowned with Corinthian capitals -- design characteristics typical of the opulent architecture of the Second Temple period.
"These chambers are part of a new walk through the Western Wall Tunnels," Mordechai Soli Eliav, chairman of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, said in a press release.
"Visitors will view fascinating finds and walk for the first time along the entire route among Second Temple-period remains that illustrate the complexity of Jewish life in Jerusalem between the Hasmonean and the Roman periods," Eliav said.
In addition to the large reception halls, archaeologists discovered several large stone slabs that formed the building's full foundation.
The extent of the foundation suggests several guest rooms, including reclining dining rooms, were attached to the halls.
"This is without doubt one of the most magnificent public building from the Second Temple period that has ever been uncovered outside the Temple Mount walls in Jerusalem," said Shlomit Weksler-Bdolach, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Archaeologists suggests visitors to the Western Wall Tunnels will now gain a greater appreciation for the scope and magnificence of buildings that populated Jerusalem's Old City during the Second Temple period, some 2,000 years ago.
"It creates a new visitors' route that passes through the building and leads to the spacious compound at the foot of Wilson's Arch, one of the bridges leading to the Temple Mount," said Shachar Puni, architect for the Israel Antiquities Authority's conservation department.
"By making the route accessible and opening it to the public, visitors are introduced to one of the most fascinating and impressive sites in the Old City of Jerusalem," Puni said.