The Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority, and the City of David Foundation announced Tuesday the commencement of the excavation of the historic Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.
The Pool of Siloam, located in the southern portion of the City of David and within the area of the Jerusalem Walls National Park, is an archaeological and historical site of national and international significance.
The Pool was first constructed some 2,700 years ago, as part of Jerusalem's water system in the 8th Century BCE, during the reign of King Hezekiah, as described in the Bible in the Book of Kings II, 20: 20:
"Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the Pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of Chronicles of the kings of Judah?"
The Pool of Siloam served as the reservoir for the waters of the Gihon Spring, which were diverted through an underground water tunnel, and it was thus already considered one of the most important areas in Jerusalem in the First Temple period. Due to its location and importance, the Pool of Siloam was renovated and expanded some 2,000 years ago at the end of the Second Temple period. It is believed that the Pool was used during this time as a ritual bath ('mikveh') by millions of pilgrims who converged at the Pool of Siloam before ascending through the City of David to the Temple.
In 1880, the Siloam Inscription was uncovered in the water tunnel, just a few dozen meters from the Pool. The Inscription, currently located at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is written in ancient Hebrew script and records how the Gihon Spring's water was diverted to the Pool during the reign of King Hezekiah.
Over the years, many traditions have been associated with the Pool of Siloam, and since the end of the 19th century, it has been a focus of expeditions from around the world: in the 1890's, a group of British-American archaeologists led by Frederick Jones Bliss and Archibald Campbell Dickey uncovered some of the steps of the Pool; and in the 1960s, the British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon excavated the site.
In 2004, during infrastructure works carried out by the Hagihon water company, some of the Pool's steps were exposed. Consequently, the IAA commenced a systematic excavation under the direction of Professors Roni Reich and Eli Shukron. As part of the excavation, the northern perimeter, as well as a small portion of the eastern perimeter of the Pool of Siloam were exposed. The perimeter of the Pool was built as a series of steps, allowing the bathers to sit and immerse themselves in the waters of the Pool.
According to estimates, the Pool of Siloam went through multiple stages of development, and at the height of its glory, was approximately the size of 5 dunams (1¼ acres), and inlaid with impressive flagstones. For the first time in modern history, the excavation by the IAA will enable the complete exposure of the Pool of Siloam, within the context of an official archeological excavation. In the first stage, visitors will be able to observe the archaeological excavations, and in the coming months the Pool of Siloam will be opened for tourist access, as part of a route that will begin at the southernmost point of the City of David and culminate at the footsteps of the Western Wall.
Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, praised the beginning of the project. "The Pool of Siloam in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem, is a site of historic, national and international significance. After many years of anticipation, we will soon merit being able to uncover this important site and make it accessible to the millions of visitors visiting Jerusalem each year."