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Israeli Archaeologists Unearth Massive Second Temple-Era Aqueduct In Jerusalem

Aug 28, 2023

Second Temple-Era Aqueduct

Israel’s latest archaeological revelation is an impressive relic from the Second Temple era, showcasing a significant section of Jerusalem’s historic aqueduct network. This remarkable discovery, measuring around 300 meters (approximately 1,000 feet) in length, was brought to light during excavations in Givat Hamatos, as announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The location of this discovery holds particular importance. It emerged during the meticulous preparations for the Municipality of Jerusalem’s regional developmental initiatives, including constructing essential educational institutions.

A notable contributor to these archaeological endeavors’ success, including the Givat Hamatos project, was the Arim company’s involvement. Amid the excavation process, several intriguing artifacts surfaced, among them a collection of ancient coins, including a remarkable specimen minted during the First Jewish–Roman War.

These artifacts provide a glimpse into the past and offer valuable clues about the region’s historical context.

Meeting The Water Needs Of A Growing City

Dr. Ofer Shyam and Ruth Cohen, two of the top-level executives from the Antiquities Authority, emphasized the significance of this aqueduct. They explained that as Jerusalem expanded during the final days of the Second Temple, the water demand also increased substantially.

The reconstructed Temple and the surge in pilgrims and residents necessitated a more substantial water supply system, extending beyond the previous conduits and cisterns. Thus, the Hasmoneans and King Herod took action in response to this growing water need.

They constructed two intricate aqueducts to address Jerusalem’s requirements. The “Upper Aqueduct” carried water to the upper city, encompassing today’s Jewish and Armenian Quarters of the Old City.

The “Lower Aqueduct” focused on providing water to the Temple, another crucial city center. Shyam and Cohen stressed that these aqueducts are remarkable examples of ancient engineering prowess, ranking among the most complex water systems within the region and the ancient world.

Impressively, each aqueduct spanned approximately ten kilometers, connecting Bethlehem Springs—the water source—to the heart of Jerusalem.

Intriguing Discoveries

An additional intriguing discovery emerged during this excavation: coins found sporadically along the foundations of the aqueduct associated with the Tenth Legion. According to Shyam and Cohen, this arrangement appears to have been intentionally orchestrated.

They said it symbolizes contemporary practices, such as placing coins in designated areas for good fortune. Equally captivating was the unearthing of a coin originating from the Second Temple era, precisely minted during the tumultuous period of 67-68 CE, a time marked by the onset of the Great Jewish Revolt, the first of the three Jewish-Roman wars.

The researchers hypothesize that the builders of the ancient Jerusalem aqueduct incorporated these coins into the structure’s foundations while laying the conduit. This intriguing historical touchpoint sheds light on the customs and beliefs of that era.

This discovery provides another stepping stone in the ongoing journey to piece together the history of this remarkable region.