Section of Ancient Yerushalayim Aqueduct Exposed

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -
Section of the lower aqueduct. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)
Section of the lower aqueduct. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

A section of Yerushalayim’s lower aqueduct, which conveyed water to the city more than 2,000 years ago by archaeological estimate, was exposed in the Umm Tuba quarter (near Har Homa) during the construction of a sewer line in the neighborhood by the Gihon Company.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct. According to Yaakov Billig, the excavation director, “The lower aqueduct to Yerushalayim, which were constructed to provide water to the city, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago.

“The aqueduct begins at the En Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Beit Lechem, and is approximately 15 miles long. Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just three feet per .62 miles 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.”

The aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Yerushalayim in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor.

Since this was one of the city’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it, until it was replaced about a century ago by 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.