Thursday, May 21, 2015

2,000-Yr-Old Aqueduct Found in Jerusalem Sewer Project

May 21, 2015 - Archaeologists have exposed a section of the lower aqueduct which conveyed water to ancient Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago.

The aqueduct was discovered by Gihon Company workers in the Umm Tuba quarter (near Har Homa) during construction of a sewer line in the neighborhood. 

The sewer line is part of an extensive project (directed by Gihon CEO Zohar Yinon) to install a modern sewer system for the benefit of the residents of Umm Tuba and Sur Bahar.  The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct. 

A section of the aqueduct that brought water to ancient Jerusalem.
Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority
Excavation director Ya’akov Billig explained that the Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem was constructed more than two thousand years ago by the Hasmonean kings in order to provide water to Jerusalem. It operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago. 

The aqueduct begins at the ‘En ‘Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long. 

“Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance,” Billig said. 

“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”.

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 the neighborhoods of 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 two thousand years. It was only replaced about a century ago with a modern electrically operated system. 

Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority 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.

The Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct was 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 and around the Sultan's Pool. Additional projects are planned with themes that include the Lower Aqueduct.

The Israel Antiquities Authority added that it noted favorably the professional attitude and thorough efforts on the part of the Gihon Company regarding the excavation and discovery of antiquities.

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