Lieberman said the theater, which apparently seat about 200 people, is not like the bigger examples seen in other cities held by the Romans.
“It has the same structure, the same semicircular stepped building,” she said. “It’s just a lot smaller.”
However, it is unclear whether the theater was ever actually used.
One of its staircases was never completely hewn. Some speculate that a Jewish revolt against Rome, which occurred from 132-135 A.D., might have halted construction and left the theater unfinished.
Lieberman says the find sheds more light on Jerusalem of the late Roman period, a time that historians don’t know much about.
Most of the major public structures from Roman Jerusalem — the large theater forum, basilica and bathhouse — have yet to be uncovered.
“Jerusalem was always inhabited and there were always different cultures and nations that lived here,” Lieberman said. “It’s very hard to find the remains from the different periods. You usually find a foundation here, a wall there. But to find something standing completely whole doesn’t happen so much in Jerusalem, especially not from the late Roman period.”
Researchers have at least another 10 feet of ground below the theater to excavate to see what other discoveries may be awaiting underneath. The Israeli Antiquities Authority says the excavation site may eventually be opened to the public.
Paul Goldman reported from Jerusalem, and Yuliya Talmazan from London.