Mysterious 2,000-Year-Old Podium Found in Jerusalem

Archaeologists speculate it was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public's attention when walking on the city's main street. Continue reading →

A mysterious pyramid-shaped flight of stairs dating to the time of Jesus, has been unearthed in ancient Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

Made from large ashlar - or finely cut - stones, the 2,000-year-old stepped structure leads to a podium.

The puzzling staircase was found alongside a stepped street that once led Jewish pilgrims from the rock cut Pool of Siloama on the southern slope of the City of David to the Second Temple which stood atop the Temple Mount.

Mysterious Message Found in 2000-Year-Old Ritual Bath in Jerusalem

Consisting of enormous stone slabs, the street was built sometime in the fourth decade of the 1st century A.D. and was one of the largest construction projects undertaken in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period.

The Second temple era, running from 538 B.C. to 70 A.D., refers to the lifetime of the temple built by King Herod the Great to replace the First Temple, razed by the Babylonians around 587 B.C.

In 70 A.D., the Second Temple also vanished as the Romans sacked the city and plundered Herod's magnificent white and gold temple. Then they paraded the treasure, which also helped finance the building of the Colosseum, through the streets of Rome in triumph.

Ancient Aqueduct Unearthed In Jerusalem

Archaeologists do not know yet what the pyramid-shaped staircase was used for. Rabbinic texts refer to stone platforms used for auctions or as "Stone of Claims" to find lost belongings, but nothing like that structure has been found in Jerusalem or elsewhere in ancient Israel.

"Given the lack of a clear archaeological parallel to the stepped-structure, the purpose of the staircase remains a mystery," archaeologists Nahshon Szanton and Joe Uziel said in a statement.

Intriguingly, dozens of whole pottery vessels, stone vessels and glassware were found at its foot.

Since the structure is built along the street in a place that is clearly visible from afar by passers-by making their way to the Temple, the archaeologist speculate it was a kind of monumental podium that attracted the public's attention when walking on the city's main street.

"It would be very interesting to know what was said there 2,000 years ago. Were messages announced here on behalf of the government? Perhaps news or gossip, or admonitions and street preaching – unfortunately we do not know," Szanton and Uziel said.

Joe Uziel, co-director of the excavation from the Israel Antiquities Authority, sitting atop the 2,000-year-old stepped structure.

Have the most important temples, tombs, pyramids, cities, and civilizations been found? Not at all, according to Peter B. Campbell, director of archaeology at the Albanian Center for Marine Research. "The greatest age of discovery is happening right now. And the real fun is just about to begin," Campbell said.

Machu Picchu was not known to the outside world until 1911, but what lost cities are awaiting discovery today? Three ancient Mayan cities were recently discovered and researchers say they think more are in the surrounding area.

Photos: The Hunt for Lost Cities

Decades of underwater research have provided us with a good understanding of our maritime past. But there has been one looming gap: ancient warships. After years of searching, the site of the Battle of the Egadi Islands, the decisive climax to the First Punic War, was discovered off the coast of Sicily. The site has yielded 11 warship rams, as the one depicted in this picture, as well as armament and amphoras (container vases) that were meant to resupply Hamilcar Barca's forces, Hannibal's father.

Photos: Biggest Shipwreck Finds in History

A small village in Greece might be home to the greatest discovery of the new century. The largest ancient tomb ever found in Greece has been dated to the period of Alexander the Great. A 16-foot lion statue sits atop the tomb and two sphinxes guard an entrance bricked up with granite blocks weighing a ton each. As the excavation progresses, archaeologists have uncovered two incredible female caryatid statues, mosaic floors and three chambers.

Greek Tomb's Female Sculptures Fully Revealed

The list of findings from the last few years goes on and on and includes Captain Kidd's shipwreck. The wreckage of Quedagh Merchant, the ship abandoned by the 17th century pirate Captain William Kidd as he raced to New York in an ill-fated attempt to clear his name, was found in less than 10 feet of Caribbean seawater by a team from Indiana University.

Most Famous Pirates of the Caribbean

Unique findings include a Gate to Hell in Hierapoils, in southwestern Turkey, complete with animals that died from getting too close. Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.

Photos: 'Gate to Hell' Guardians Found

While 17 new pyramids were discovered in Egypt in 2011 alone, using infrared satellite technology, a previously unknown pharaoh named Woseribre Senebkay and the necropolis of his dynasty were found earlier this year.

Long-Lost Pyramids Found?

There are many unrecorded conquerors, battles and Romeo and Juliets in the vastness of prehistory whose stories are waiting to be told. Prehistoric finds like Hoyo Negro's earliest American, the Hobbit-like species

Homo floresiensis

and insight into the first artists suggest the best stories may await discovery.

New Fossils Help Bring Hobbit Humans to Life