A large ancient water system was discovered recently at excavations near Rosh Ha-Ayin.
According to Gilad Itach, director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority, “it is difficult not to be impressed by the sight of the immense underground reservoir quarried out so many years ago. In antiquity, rainwater collection and storage was a fundamental necessity. With an annual rainfall of 19.6 inches, the region’s winter rains would easily have filled the huge reservoir. On its walls, near the entrance, we identified engravings of human figures…and a vegetal motif that were probably carved by passersby in a later period.”
The water system exposed is nearly 60 feet long and reaches a depth of over 12 feet. The excavations reveal that the reservoir was built beneath a large structure with walls that are all nearly 150 feet long. Some of the potsherds found on the floors of the rooms probably belonged to vessels used to draw water from the reservoir. According to the estimates of the archeologists, the structure and the reservoir were built about 2,700 years ago. Though the building was abandoned during the Persian period, the reservoir was still in use until modern times.
In recent years, a number of other farmsteads thought to have been built at the end of Bais Rishon have been discovered near Rosh Ha-Ayin.
The establishment of farmhouses in this area is interesting, given the fact that many regions within the decimated Kingdom of Israel remained desolate. Some scholars believe that the establishment of the farmsteads was motivated by the empire’s wish to settle the area, which lay on an international route and near the western border of the Assyrian empire.
According to Itach, “The structure exposed in this excavation is different from most of the previously discovered farmsteads. Its orderly plan, vast area, strong walls, and the impressive water reservoir hewn beneath it suggest that the site was administrative in nature and it may well have controlled the surrounding farmsteads.”
High-school students majoring in the Education Ministry’s Land of Israel and Archaeology track participated in the Rosh Ha-Ayin excavations as part of the Ministry and the IAA’s new educational program, which is designed to connect students with the past and train the archaeologists of tomorrow.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Construction and Housing and Rosh Ha-Ayin Municipality, the IAA has plans for the site to remain an open area accessible to the public adjacent to a new residential neighborhood initiated by the Ministry of Construction and Housing.