Itongadol.- A section of ancient Jerusalem’s lower aqueduct, which conveyed water throughout the city more than 2,000 years ago, was recently exposed during an excavation in east Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Thursday.
Section of expansive 2,000-year-old lower aqueduct exposed in east Jerusalem
The discovery was made in the Umm Tuba quarter near Har Homa during the construction of a sewage line in the neighborhood by the Gihon Company to install a modern sewer system for area residents, the IAA said.
According to the excavation’s director, Ya’akov Billig, the lower aqueduct was constructed by Hasmonean kings for mass water distribution in the capital, and operated intermittently until about 100 years ago.
“The aqueduct begins at the En Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long,” said Billig. “Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope, whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance.
“At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel, and about 500 years ago during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water.”
Billig noted that the aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods, including Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor. “Since this is one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it for some 2,000 years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system,” he explained.
“Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the IAA is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct, and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.”
Billig said the Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct has been documented, studied, and covered up again “for the sake of future generations.”
“Other sections of the long aqueduct have been conserved for the public in the Armon Ha-Natziv tunnels, on the Sherover promenade, around the Sultan’s Pool, and additional projects are planned whose themes include the lower aqueduct,” he added.
Billig commended the Gihon Company’s cooperation during the discovery, and subsequent excavation, as exemplary.