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Ottoman Water System Revealed

July 4, 2017

by: Edgar Asher

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Recently, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) uncovered an Ottoman-period well and an elaborate water system located nearby as part of the work being carried out by the Netivei Israel Company to widen Highway 38 near Ramat Bet Shemesh.

A large well, about 3.5 meters [11.5 ft] in diameter, was discovered at the site, dug into a level of groundwater that is currently about 2 meters [6.5 ft] below the surface. A small underground space with a vaulted ceiling adjoins the well. IAA researchers believe that this structure, the likes of which are unknown in the Judean region, was used to store excess water from the well.

This well joins a series of old wells along Route 38, easily discerned because of the palm trees and thick flourishing aquatic flora growing around them This site, in fact, preserves one of the physical characteristics of the road and contributes to the reconstruction of the ancient landscape in the lower Judean hills.

According to Michal Haber, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, “Route 38, which connects Shaʽar Ha-Gai with Beit Guvrin, is today one of the country’s main longitudinal arteries. It in fact constitutes a corridor that links the north of Israel with the south, and it was this way during many periods in the country’s history. Throughout the generations sites, villages, farms and monasteries were built along this artery, and roadside stations prospered between them. We believe that wells such as the one we exposed were installed at various times to meet the needs of the public traveling on the road and the people who resided alongside it. The latter were careful to maintain the wells as an exclusive source of fresh water, and by means of sophisticated engineering methods they prevented these sources from drying up.”

Source: Excerpt from an article by Ashernet

Photo Credit: Photos by Ashernet/Michael Haber/IAA

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