Remains of Ottoman aqueduct
Remains of Ottoman aqueductIsrael news photo: Skyview, courtesy of IAA

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority have uncovered the secret to how ancient engineers managed to fill the Sultan's Pool with water in the Old City of Jerusalem.

During an excavation prior to the construction of the Montefiore Museum in Mishkenot Sha'ananim by the Jerusalem Foundation, archaeologists uncovered the main aqueduct that conveyed water to the pool. (Photos by Skyview company, courtesy of IAA)

The aqueduct supplied pilgrims and residents with water for drinking and purification, at the Temple Mount as well as the Sultan's Pool.

Although today most Israelis think of the Sultan's Pool as a venue for outdoor concerts and other large cultural events, for hundreds of years it was one of the city's most important reservoirs.

The dig, led by Gideon Solimany and Dr. Ron Be'eri (of IAA), focused on a section along the course of the Low-Level Aqueduct on the western side of the Ben Hinnoam Valley, above the Derech Hevron Bridge. The aqueduct originally reached a height of three meters.

"Naturally, one of the first things Sultan Suleiman The First hastened to do in Jerusalem (along with the construction of the city wall as we know it today) was to repair the aqueduct that was already there which supplied the large numbers of pilgrims who arrived in Jerusalem with water for drinking and purification," explained Be'eri.

"Suleiman attached a small tower to the aqueduct, inside of which a ceramic pipe was inserted. The pipe diverted the aqueduct’s water to the Sultan’s Pool and the impressive sabil (a Muslim public fountain for drinking water), which he built for the pilgrims who crossed the Derekh Hebron bridge and is still preserved there today.”

Beeri added that the location of the aqueduct was extremely successful and efficient. "We found four phases of different aqueducts that were constructed in exactly the same spot, one, Byzantine, from the sixth-seventh centuries CE and three that are Ottoman which were built beginning in the sixteenth century CE. The last three encircle a large subterranean water reservoir that was apparently built before the Ottoman period”.

The Low-level Aqueduct is one of two ancient water conduits that originated at the springs in the Hebron Highlands and at Solomon’s Pools, and terminated in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Research has shown that the ancient aqueduct was meant to supply high quality spring water to the Temple Mount, to Jerusalem’s residents and to the many pilgrims that have come to the city over the course of generations, according to a statement by IAA.

“We can see that from the time of the Second Temple until the Byzantine period water flowed in an open channel that was covered with stone slabs. In later phases, beginning in the Ottoman period, water was conveyed in ceramic pipes which were installed inside the aqueduct,” Be'eri noted.

The Low-level Aqueduct is to be incorporated in the Montefiore Museum, which the Jerusalem Foundation plans to build inside the pool, adjacent to the aqueduct.