How many thousands of Christians were massacred when the Persians conquered Jerusalem in 614 C.E. is unknown, but if surviving historical records are at all reliable, the number was huge. We now have the first archaeological evidence that may be related to this tragic chapter in Jerusalem’s history—a mass grave of Christians at the precise location where a surviving list places one of them.
We often hear of urban expansion and development around the world resulting in the destruction of archaeological remains. In this case, however, development led to the discovery of archaeological remains. The area adjacent to Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate, outside the western wall of the Old City, is known as Mamilla. Between 1948 and 1967 much of it was a no-man’s-land, between Israeli western Jerusalem and the Jordanian-held Old City. When the Old City fell to Israel in the Six-Day War, Mamilla became available for development. This did not occur, however, until 1989, when the municipality began construction of what is known as the Mamilla Project. It includes a residential area (already built in part), a commercial area with a large parking garage (completed) and a Hilton hotel (under construction).