New Section of Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct Exposed

May 21, 2015  

A section of Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct, the system which conveyed water to the ancient city more than 2,000 years ago, was discovered in the Umm Tuba quarter during construction of a sewer line there. 

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) subsequently conducted an archaeological excavation at the site near the Har Homa neighborhood. 

According to Yaakov Billig, the excavation director, “the Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago.”

“The aqueduct begins at the En Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long. Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance.”

“At first,” Billig explained, “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 in the past built in open areas, but with Jerusalem’s expansion in the modern era, it now runs through a number of more city-like neighborhoods including Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot, and Abu Tor. 

As one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took precaution over some two thousand years to preserve the aqueduct system, until it was replaced nearly a century ago by an electrically operated one. 

Because of its historical and archaeological significance, the IAA is working to prevent damage to the aqueduct as well as expose and study the remains to make them accessible to the general public. 


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