Archaeologists Say They've Found Jerusalem's Ancient Fortress of Acra

Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Archaeologists think they've discovered one of Jerusalem's most mysterious lost buildings, the ancient Greek fortress of Acra, beneath a parking lot.

The stone fortress was constructed nearly 2200 years ago by Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled as king of the Hellenized Seleucid empire. He built Acra to solidify his control over the city, and used soldiers to subdue its Jewish residents. Eventually, the Maccabees led a successful revolt against King Epiphanes in the 2nd century BCE, and it was thought that the fortress might have been subsequently destroyed.

According to Sci-News, archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority found a tower base, a part of a large wall, and a sloping bank formed from earth, stone, and plaster that was built to keep attackers at bay. They also discovered coins dating back from the leadership of Antiochus IV Epiphanes to Antiochus VII Sidetes—both ruled in the 2nd century BCE—clarifying both the fortress's age and the fact that its inhabitants weren’t Jewish.

Additionally, archaeologists noted remnants from battles against the citadel, which was an estimated 750 feet long and 120 feet wide. They unearthed slingshots, arrowheads, and ballista stones stamped with a trident, the symbol of Antiochus.

Scholars have debated the fort’s location for centuries. Some thought it was located in Jerusalem's Old City, the Forward reports. Instead, Acra was found in south Jerusalem, near where the biblical King David once ruled.

Archaeologists will continue to excavate the site, uncovering more information about both its inhabitants and the long sieges that brought about Acra’s downfall. “This sensational discovery allows us for the first time to reconstruct the layout of the settlement in the city, on the eve of the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BCE,” the archaeologists said.

[h/t Sci-News, the Forward