Second century aqueduct found in Jerusalem

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced earlier today the discover of the High-Level Aqueduct that brought water into Hezekiah’s Pool in the Roman city of Jerusalem.

A beautiful aqueduct, standing 1.50 meters [4.92 feet] high and built of large stones, has been situated for almost two millennia right under one of the most familiar and traveled places in Jerusalem – beneath the road that leads from Jaffa Gate toward the David Citadel Museum and the shops on David Street.

The High-Level Aqueduct of Jerusalem, which dates from the second-third century CE, was exposed in excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting, with funding provided by the Jerusalem Development Authority for the purpose of replacing the infrastructure in the region.

According to Dr. Ofer Sion, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The side of the aqueduct was discovered during the course of the excavation. When we removed the stones in its side and peeked into it we saw a splendidly built aqueduct covered with stone slabs where one can walk crouched down for a distance of approximately 40 meters. It is very exciting to think that no one has set foot there for many hundreds of years”. According to Sion, “The noted Land of Israel scholar, Dr. Conrad Schick, described a specific section of the aqueduct in a survey he conducted at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1898 a building was erected in this area which afterward became what we know of today as the Imperial Hotel. Schick’s documentation provided us with the clue that led to exposing this section of the aqueduct”.

The aqueduct is c. 60 centimeters [23.64 inches] wide and 1.5 meters [4.92 feet] high. Shafts were exposed at fifteen meter intervals or so that allowed the ancients to check the state of the aqueduct from what was the surface level in those days.

Second century upper aqueduct in Jerusalem. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

Second century high-level aqueduct in Jerusalem. Photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA.

A short video from ITN features Dr. Ofer Sion and the upper aqueduct here.

Todd Bolen calls attention to Tom Powers — View From Jerusalem in which he includes the late 19th century plans by Conrad Schick. Tom has some great photos made during the excavation.

For centuries, the water for Jerusalem came from the Gihon Spring on the east side of the city. From the time of Herod the Great, at least, water for the city was brought from Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem by aqueduct. This was a distance of about 8 miles.

Once the water reached Jerusalem it was brought into the city by two main aqueducts — the Low-Level Aqueduct and the High-Level Aqueduct. [UPDATE: See the comment by Tom Powers. Tom correctly points out that there were two separate aqueducts bringing the water into the city. I plan to say more about this later. Thanks for the correction, Tom.]

The High-Level Aqueduct conveyed water to the high part of the city where King Herod’s palace and Hezekiah’s Pool were situated, the latter being the main source of water for all those arriving in the city; and the Low-Level Aqueduct carried water to the Temple Mount and the Temple.

So many names in the Holy Land have nothing to do with the person for whom they are named. The Citadel of David is not. Solomon’s Pools are not. Hezekiah’s Pool may not be. These names were attached to various structures by later pilgrims.

Jerome Murphy-O’Connor describes Hezekiah’s Pool.

This great reservoir is entirely surrounded by buildings, and is accessible through the Coptic Khan…. At present the dry pool is used as a rubbish dump by the dwellings which surround it on all sides, but a much needed restoration project is on the drawing board.

Murphy-O’Connor says the pool “is thought to date from the Herodian period when it was fed by an aqueduct (visible outside Jaffa Gate) coming from Mamilla Pool.” He says Josephus mentions the pool under the name Amygdalon (Almond Tree) (War 5:468). He says this name, Amygdalon, is probably a deformation o f the Hebrew migdal (tower). The reference is to the towers of Herod’s palace.

I have been upstairs, or on the roof, of the Petra Hotel several times to photograph Hezekiah’s Pool. The photo below was made in early September, 2008. The area was the cleanest I had seen it. The Petra Hotel is immediately east of the Imperial Hotel mentioned in Tom Powers blog.

The view from the hotel roof is good. To the left is the dome of the Holy Sepulchre. The Lutheran Church tower is in the middle of the photo. The Dome of the Rock is visible to the right. In the distant left is Mount Scopus. To the right is the Mount of Olives.

Hezekiah's Pool from roof of Petra Hotel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Hezekiah's Pool from roof of the Petra Hotel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The full news release by the IAA may be read here.

HT: Todd Bolen, Bible Places Blog; Joseph I. Lauer.

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2 responses to “Second century aqueduct found in Jerusalem

  1. Pingback: » Interesting Recent Archaeological Finds (Updated) News of His Land: A Blog focused upon Israel and current events from a Christian Zionist view

  2. FJ: Thanks for linking to my related posting on this! A few comments, by way of clarification:

    First, the quote by Sion the archaeologist mis-states the date of the Imperial Hotel as 1898. Rather, the construction — the first phase at least — was in the mid-1880s; the elevations by Schick published in 1887 show a completed one-storey building. Incidentally, for the first few decades at least it was known as the “Grand New” Hotel, as seen in many old photos.

    Secondly, your post states: “Once the water reached Jerusalem it was brought into the city by two main aqueducts…” Actually the two aqueducts ran independently, at different levels, all the way from Solomon’s Pools, from different points of the pool complex to their respective destinations in Jerusalem. The Lower Aqueduct is the older of the two, now pretty firmly dated to the Hasmonean period, and also the longer, mostly following the contours of many ridges and valleys. The Upper Aqueduct is shorter because it was built closer to the ridge-line of the watershed (today’s Hebron Road, more or less).

    Finally, regarding the terminology involved: It would be more proper and less confusing — even for the IAA — to use the terms “Lower” and “Upper” for Jerusalem’s two aqueducts, since low-level/high-level really denote two types of construction: built on (or into, or under) the ground vs. a channel elevated on piers and arches. Only one small section of the Upper Aqueduct, a stretch traversing a shallow valley in Bethlehem, was actually “high-level”, at least in its original Herodian phase; this is the still-visible part which some people may know in its Late Roman manifestation: a line of massive, interlocking sections of stone pipe on which the houses of the Aida Refugee Camp now sit!

    TOM POWERS / Jerusalem

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