One of the most rewarding areas of archaeological endeavor has been in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. Finds of objects and building infrastructure push back in time our knowledge of how Jerusalem developed in the First Temple Period—1006 to 586 BC.
A chance, unexpected discovery by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed, near to the Western Wall, a huge water cistern at the base of the Temple Mount. For many years now Israeli archaeologists have been trying to piece together exactly how water was delivered and stored in the Temple area some 3,000 years ago.
Researchers believed that the Gihon Spring was the main and almost exclusive source of water for ancient Jerusalem, and that both the inhabitants of the upper city and the Temple used its water. But there was one small problem with this theory; the relatively large distance of about 800 meters [2,625 ft] between the Spring and the Temple Mount. A few weeks ago the question was answered.
IAA workers were busy clearing an ancient drainage channel near the Mugrabi Gate [on western side of the Old City]. One of the workers was surprised when one of the channel’s paving stones moved. Eli Shukron, the excavation director, was called over to take a closer look. The loose stone was gently lifted and this revealed a huge void below. Heavy duty portable lights were shone into the hole and it was clear that a major discovery was being made.
Subsequently, with more illumination and an extended ladder, the first human being for about three thousand years entered the void. A huge underground reservoir from the First Temple period had been revealed. It was rock covered with a yellow-brown plaster sealant. In places there were even indentations of a man’s hand, obviously a worker who had been smoothing off the plaster sealant during construction before it had dried.
This major discovery is the key to how the Temple was able to maintain such a continuous supply of fresh water throughout the year. It is now almost certain that Jerusalem’s Jews of 3,000 years ago did not rely solely on the Gihon Spring. The Spring was all the time replenishing the water cistern which had an approximate capacity of 250 cubic meters [66,043 US gallons].
Now the IAA archaeologists are certain that there must be other similar reservoirs in the area and now they are intent on finding them to finally understand the extent and innovation of the First Temple engineers.
Posted on September 12, 2012
Source: (By Edgar Asher, Ashernet, September 6, 2012)
Photo Credit: Ashernet
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