Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 12:26 UK

Jerusalem ancient walls unveiled

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have given a first glimpse of what they say is a newly-exposed section of the city walls built 2,100 years ago.

They say the mortarless stone structure is the best preserved section of the city's walls ever seen from the period of the Second Jewish Temple.

The walls were first located through tunnels by 19th Century researchers, whose beer bottles were also found.

The researchers hope to open the site to the public in the next few years.

"We knew the walls were here somewhere," said Yehiel Zelinger, who has led the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"The fact that after 2,100 years the remains of the wall were preserved to a height of three meters is amazing," he said.

Beer bottles left in Jerusalem by 19th Century archaeologists Bliss and Dickie
Bliss and Dickie left behind beer bottles and a shoe

The construction dates from the period of the Second Temple - the 2nd Century BC until the temple's destruction by the Romans in the year 70.

The researchers believe the walls show the ancient city's boundaries when it was at its largest, with a circumference of 6km, compared to the 4km of walling surrounding what is now the Old City.

As well as the detailed maps that helped Mr Zelinger's team locate the walls, the 19th Century archaeologists Frederick Bliss and Archibald Dickie also left behind beer bottles, a gas lamp and an old shoe.

But they refilled the tunnels they had dug to access their find, and the walls stayed buried until Mr Zelinger's team began excavating 18 months ago.

The researchers also found a range of artefacts from before and after the Second Temple period, including female fertility figures from the early Israelites who, according to the Bible, were prohibited from worshipping idols.

And, above the ancient walls, they also uncovered a second wall, built 400 years later by the Byzantines.

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