Israeli archaeologists discover 1,700-year-old underground passage in Roman theater

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JERUSALEM, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Israeli archaeologists uncovered a Roman underground passage from about 1,700 years ago, where theater actors passed from the dressing room to the center stage, the Israel National Parks Authority (NPA) reported Tuesday.

The passage was discovered in archaeological excavation in the Roman theater structure in the ancient city of Antipatris, near today's city of Rosh Haayin in central Israel, the NPA said.

The passage, called as the "Charon Staircase," is considered unique in its kind in the world. According to the archaeologists, there are only 6 other similar systems in the world, including the ones found in Greece and Italy.

The six-meter-long canal, which is about 60 centimeters wide and 60 centimeters high, is under the stage below the orchestra pit (the area in the theater hall where the musicians sit), the NPA said.

The canal takes a 90-degree turn beneath the stage and then turns north under huge stone slabs -- an area that has not yet been excavated.

The passage's dimensions allowed the actors to crawl and suddenly appear in front of the audience at the orchestra pit's center.

In Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman of Hades (the god of the dead) who led the dead people through the Styx River to the underworld. It is said that Charon moved the dead people to the other side of the river only if they have a coin to pay for the trip.

Therefore, the ancient Greeks used to bury the dead with a coin under their tongues, so that they would not have to wander forever along the banks of the river. Enditem

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