Jerusalem’s long-lost Roman theatre has been discovered near the Western Wall, in tunnels underneath the Old City.

Archaeologists at the Israel Antiquities Authority who were working at the site near Wilson’s Arch, uncovered the structure during excavations, revealing eight previously unknown layers of Western Wall stones.

Among the finds were the Roman theatre that had lay hidden for 1,700 years, at the northern end of the Western Wall Plaza (the Kotel).

The discovery was accidental, with archaeologists instead trying to date Wilson’s Arch, itself a massive stone structure that once supported a bridge leading to the Temple Mount during the Second Temple period.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority’s Dr. Joe Uziel said: “From a research perspective, this is a sensational find. The discovery was a real surprise. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theatre … The discovery of the theatre-like structure is the real drama.”

The team had been expecting to excavate down to the level of a road, when instead they stumbled across a round structure with seating for 200, with stairs and a stage.

Archaeologists said the structure could either be an odeon, a smaller covered theatre designed for acoustic performances, or a ‘bouleuterion,’ a building chamber where the local council met.