Newly-uncovered ancient waterway
Newly-uncovered ancient waterwayIsrael news photo: Assaf Peretz, IAA

The excavations inside the Old City of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate have turned up yet another fascinating revelation: A water canal, 40 meters long (44 yards) and 1.5 meters (5 feet) high.

The excavations are being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority as part of a “rescue” operation, customary in Israel before major construction work, prior to the replacement of underground infrastructures there.

It was announced last week that the ancient precursor of today's Old City road leading from Jaffa Gate to Mt. Zion was uncovered - precisely where an ancient and now-famous Mosaic map says it should be.

Now, it is the turn of the upper Jerusalem waterway from the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E. to see the light of day. 

Dr. Ofer Sion, director of the archaeological works at the site, explained, “During the course of the work, the wall of the waterway was revealed, and when we removed some of the large stones and looked inside, we saw before us a perfectly-designed waterway, with a flat stone roof on top. People can walk inside it, bent-over, for a length of 40 meters.”

Dr. Sion explains that the newly-uncovered section is just a part of a waterway that was once some 13 kilometers long, leading from Solomon’s Pools. “It is exciting to think that no human has set foot here for so many centuries,” he added.

The two-foot wide waterway was not uncovered totally by accident. At the end of the 19th century, the Land of Israel archaeologist and architect Dr. Conrad Schick (designer of the Meah She’arim neighborhood) described the location of part of the waterway. “His work gave us some clues that led to this discovery,” said Dr. Sion.

Originally, water was supplied to Jerusalem chiefly from the Gichon Spring. Just over 2,000 years ago, however, with the population of the city growing, a new source was sought. King Herod began work on large projects bringing water from the Hevron Mountains, using the power of gravity, to Solomon’s Pools just south of the city. From there, two waterways channeled water to the city: The upper channel brought water to the King’s palace, Hezekiah’s Pool and other areas in the higher levels of the city, while water on the lower waterway went to the Holy Temple on the Temple Mount and the lower areas. The now-revealed section is part of the upper channel.