What Are These Strange Markings Found Near Jerusalem’s Gihon Spring?

Archaeologists from the City of David, Jerusalem, want your ideas

Gihon Spring markings

The function of these strange, V-shaped markings discovered near the Gihon Spring in the City of David (Jerusalem) has completely baffled archaeologists. Submit your ideas below for what you think they might be.

Last December, excavations near the Gihon Spring in the City of David, Jerusalem, uncovered three strange V-shaped markings that completely stumped archaeologists Eli Shukron and Ronny Reich. The mysterious shapes, each of which measures about 1.5 feet in length, are carved into the bedrock floor of a room that was in use, according to dated pottery sherds, until at least the late ninth century B.C.E. Unfortunately, the archaeologists found few clues to indicate either the meaning or function of the carvings.

Rather than remaining secretive and aloof about the puzzling discovery near the Gihon Spring, the archaeologists and the City of David Foundation issued a press release with a rare request to the public for help in identifying these mysterious carvings from the City of David.

The response was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people took to Facebook and reposted on other social media outlets to offer their suggestions about what the Gihon Spring markings could be—from a torture device or molds for smelting iron to a representation of mountains or the symbol for water.

But the code still hasn’t been cracked. Submit your ideas below and see if you can unlock the mystery of these ancient carvings.



Based on Strata, “Archaeologists Offer Public a Glimpse Behind the Curtain,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2012.

Posted in Jerusalem.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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46 Responses

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  1. arlis says

    what was discovered in the room behind and to the left of Dr. Eli Shukron? What is beyond the edge of the floor, in which the carvings are located, in front of him as well? This contextual setting might help provide further insight into its function. Where is it located in relation to geographically significant resources (springs, creeks, etc.)?

  2. Lisa says

    Check the recessed areas for microscopic remains of metal or wood. It was probably to help something stand or remain stable.

  3. Patty says

    I am studying the idea that this may be some form of the Priestly Blessing, when inverted, the markings are similar to that of the hand gestures: v v
    please email me at: ptyler@aac-usa.com for more.

  4. Patty says

    Or visit http://www.facebook.com/JewishJesusDaily where we have posted this article and have started a discussion.

  5. King says

    I think it is farily clear that there is no code here at all, but rather the grooves are meant to keep in place a set of 3 specialized drafting compasses. The rectangular groove is likely for a kind of allen key to lock the radius of the compass. QED

  6. Sonia Ignoto says

    I cannot begin to imagine what these markings indicate however the marking on the furthest right sure does look an awful lot like the marking above the so-called Jesus tomb entrance; just an observation!

  7. warren says

    It could be that these are markings (signatures) are test patterns of stone masons ?

  8. warren says

    Although King has the most accurate answer I presume…

  9. BILL says

    I think it has something to do with ancient aliens.

  10. Lawrence J. says

    Obviously stands for Aqua Viva.

  11. Bob says

    I think the “carvings” on the floor are made to secure in place one or more items that stand in the grooves – idols, equipment, tools, astrological instruments, etc. What convinced me were the depressions within the second inverted letter V, as if uneven legs of an item were to stand in these.

  12. David says

    32 years as a Finish Carpenter and I looked at the three incised angles cut into the stone floor and thought: Molds for creating precise angles used for creating designs. (The three possibilities for the two smaller angles are: 22 1/2 – 30 or 45 degrees) The third mold, the pyramid shaped mold, if it is equal sided must be 60 degrees. The two remaining angles I simply suspect are either 22 1/2, 30, 45 degrees simply because I used those angles regularly in my work and could buy those angles off the shelf at my lumber yard in the hardware department.

    Any or all of the angles could be used for creating intricate designs: For creating geometric patterns on floors, furniture, or possibly for laying out designs for walls and cornice.

    General carpentry, for building walls, doors, windows, normally uses a 90 degree framing square….I didn’t see you found that angle…but I suspect it is still to be found if I am right.

    Whatever the case: The clue which gives it away are the little reinforcing arches where the two lines intersect. From experience, that would have been it’s weakest point, and the place it was most likely to break in day to day handling. Today when you go to buy an angle for cutting rafters, etc, you will see manufacturers re-enforcing the same interior angle the same way. As for the forth incised straight bar cut into the floor; It is for creating a plumb bob for a plumb line. Amos 7:7

  13. Samuel says

    The two at the bottom seem to be alpha’s, however they do not seem to be the same size. It is difficult to tell because of the angle of the picture. The one on the right with the rectangular box at the bottom of the left seem to some sort of place to put a liquid in to be wicked up. The chipped out place at the right seems to have been done at a later date, although I cannot see why.
    The “V” at the top again seems to be at a different angle. (This may be because of the camera angle)
    Since the room was used until about the 9 century BC, you cannot rule out that they may have been carved by someone other than a Hebrew or Christian, and could have a meaning of some pagan religion that no longer is is existence, or that anyone knew about.

  14. MR says

    It was the job of the fullers to process wool. 142 loomweights attributed to the Iron Age were found in the city of David, some of them in a room next to the “carvings”. Qedem 35 states, “The limited number of whorls and loomweights found in the City of David provides evidence for domestic weaving activity rather than industrial production. A large quantity of sheep bones was found in the City of David. The limited weaving and spinning activity in the City of David thus probably utilized wool” (Chapter 3 – Orit Shamir – IAA). The house of the king (Hezekiah) was situated in top of the ridge on the northeastern part of the City of David and the room with the carvings is situated near the middle of the ridge (mid-slope). Warrens shaft was operational during the reign of Hezekiah and was located virtually on top of the room with the carvings. Near the bottom of the ridge, below this room, is the Gihon Spring with its old pool and connected channel which ran southward along the Kidron Valley (Channel II). II Kings 18: 17 says, “…they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway (broad space) of the fuller’s field”. The following verse makes it clear that they were standing below the king’s house, “And when they had called to the king, there came out to them Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, which was over the household…”. Isaiah 7:3 was written before Hezekiah became king but the exact same place is described as a meeting place! “…at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field”.
    These carvings, located on a smooth limestone floor, surrounded by stone benches, located near a water supply and dating to the Iron Age (according to the pottery record), may be the first archaeological evidence of the fullers in Jerusalem.

  15. King says

    Bud could well be right. Have a look at:
    Does that remind you of something?

  16. BARBARA TERRY says

    As the Gihon Spring was the main source of water for the City of David and, as this water souce could be intermittant, the Siloam Pool was excavated to store water when the spring was not producing adequate supplies of water. At the time of Hezekiah’s building of the tunnel to maintain a water source within the city walls to ensure water supply, vital especially when being attacked by its enemies, etc., that tunnel was built from two sides to meet in the middle, this looks to me like it could be some kind of mason markings. One two-sided triangle or arrow points to one side and the other points in the opposite direction.

  17. Binni says

    I like David’s suggestion. But if these were some sort of metal molds (bronze or iron ?), how would one get the finished product out of the mold? With sand molds, that’s easy, but not so with rock-hewn molds where the metal would presumably bind strongly to the rock and leveraging the final product out without bending it would be difficult.

    And wouldn’t there be microscopic remains of metal in the molds? The third, pyramid shaped, mold seems not to be connected at the base but to have a cube at one end and a ball at the other. What could be the purpose of those?

    If the setting is in an open area in a public place, that could fit with the placement of a standardised mold for use in some sort of public works?

    The idea that these markings were put there to hold something firmly in place are also interesting. The alignment of the apexes is almost (but not quite) in a straight line, with the one pointing down reaching slightly across a line drawn between the other two. The deep cube at the left hand side of the one furthest to the right would then indicate the direction of the force being applied, i.e. from the top right.

    Could these have been some sort of guides or scrapers that stood up from the floor, with strands of material (rope, leather strips) being pulled with considerable force along the right-hand side of the rightmost shape, in a direction perpendicular to the line of the left-hand arm leading to the cube shape?

    The straight marking on the top left could then concievably have been the basis of an adjustable guiding roller or scraper. A roller would be more likely given the orientation as the line of force would be perpendicular to the direction of the pulled material.

    Strips of skin from freshly slaughtered animals could concievably be scrabed by pulling them forcefully between the three triangular shapes, with the pelt side facing towards the single scraper or knife facing against the other two.

    Scraped, fresh strips make excellent and very strong ropes if they are twisted together and dried. As such, they are the only realisting means for an iron age society to create strong ropes essential for building projecst, ships rigging and ballistic equipment (I’ve no idea whether they had ballistae at the time, or anything of that sort).

    Wool is not suitable for rope making and horsehair ropes do not have the necessary tensile strength compared to width, and become very unwieldly when made thicker. Animal husbandry produces lots of skins, and there would have been a market for leather ropes if they were not used locally.

    But then again, if these markings were of a functional nature one would expect to see them in other locations, as is the case with olive presses and loom weights.

  18. Robert says

    Dispite the dating of the pottery surounding the site. Romans could have graffitied the floor with Roman numerals. From the angle of the picture the top looks like a 4. Well good luck on solving this!

  19. mark says

    I like Buds idea, but the dating puts these in the ninth century BCE, and Hezekiah, was the seventh century. If dating holds as it stands, then these could be from Solomon’s time period or his son. Massive construction was underway during those times in Jerusalem. I think that these were used in construction for underground passages, which all wise Kings had as a type of “sonic” transit. If filled with a alloy such as tin or bronze, then using a cone shaped devise to enhance listening to the ear, one would be able to listen in on digging underneath. The “V” shapes that is 1 inverted to 2 shapes, acts as a tuning fork. By triangilation of where the sound harmonizes on the arms of the 3 “V”s, changes in derection could be then dictated to the men digging below, giving them bearings on which way to go. Also this would come in handy for listening for a possible water thief, or enimie combat engineer trying to access the citie’s only water supply.
    A bit far fetched, maybe. But simular objects have been found in flooring of Egyptian temples and palaces that had fountains. A little research into possibly Elephantine’s Nilometer temple may help, as well as Thebes or Tanis.

  20. Alice says

    Reminds me of the old Dedanite and Taymanitic inscriptions.

  21. William J. says

    Perhaps these are symbols to remind the workers of the planned
    direction of the tunnel.

  22. Jerry says

    This is the same sign over the tomb of Jesus’ family. I think that it represents a tomb of the Pharisee class. Signed, Dr. Jerry Wayne Bernard

  23. Mike says

    They could be gage settings to make uniform fittings(.ie. angle iron).

  24. David says

    Yes, they could be gauge settings for making uniform fittings. But why not simply label the first one they made as the “pattern” and make the rest exact copies?

  25. David says

    Binni (response 17): Not poured metal molds but molds for the wax form used in the LOST WAX PROCESS. Our plasterer’s sprayed a light coat of oil into their decorative molds before they poured plaster into them. The oil acted as an interface and kept the two materials separated allowing for easy removal from the mold. I wonder if Olive Oil would act the same way if Bee’s Wax was used to make a form of the object?

  26. Robert says

    It looks like an anchor to bedrock for either a column or a table that they did not want to move laterally. The points of each triangle form the three points required to hold up a plane, and it would have provided a sturdy fix to the bedrock.

  27. Robert says

    To Binni .. yes I was thinking the base of a pulley system used to carry large vessels of water to The Temple at the top.

  28. Jonathan says

    I do not think it is any of those things on this post. Looks to be only words evolving Archaic Greek language system that would evolve into another subset such as Greek and Etruscan. The UL means to bend or fall the last letter is an iffy letter G. The only logical came out of two brackets meaning damaged or missing text. (http://sloveneti.tripod.com/veg/e/Etr/EtrLang-Intro_e.html ) Every language has rules to follow. My opinion would be there was not enough single vertical slab rock to finish the sentence structure. Anymore about this would be only hearsay.

  29. Marrissa says

    cuniforum markings

  30. steve says

    I see four pieces of an assembly.
    the central pieces is the one with portrutions on it and if you look, a joining bar or member.
    the outer piece the one with the unequal legs (lower left) might fit on top of the central on the protrution side, the other piece would fit on the flat side of the centra piece and the small bar fit over the joining bar of the central.
    without anything to judge its size, it might be a fancy curtain hook with all the pieces making a pleat for a curtain

  31. mitch says

    They remind me of the ta’amim

  32. Carolyn says

    September 11, 2009. Magdala (Galilee), Israel. The Legion’s planned Magdala Center is located on a piece of land that has just revealed a rare archaeological treasure: one of the oldest synagogues in the world, with traces of frescos and decorations dating from the time of Christ and the apostles. The synagogue was discovered during excavations on the land of the future Magdala Center, whose cornerstone Pope Benedict XVI blessed during his visit to the Holy Land. The excavations, directed by archaeologists Dina Avshalom-Gorni and Arfan Najar of the Israel Antiquities Authority, unearthed two significant findings: a synagogue from the Second Temple period (50 BC-100 AD), and in the middle of the synagogue, a stone engraved with a seven-branched menorah (candelabrum), the likes of which have never been seen before. On the top of the stone you will find (3) of the above-questioned symbols. Maybe these are “sketches” prior to final creation of this stone? Also, notice that the menorah depictions on archeology discoveries seem to have a similar design to that of ancient egypt and clearly depict “tuning forks”

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  34. Franz says

    The four signs may read AG V’ and name the ancient fertility giver BRI GID in her emanation of AC CA akka AG V’ Hawwa Eve, in the context of AC CA aqua AG V’ agua, consecrating the spring to Hawwa ‘mother of all life’ and thus explain how it became the source of the majestic river of life in Ezekiel 47. If you are interested in a detailed interpretion (free) you may contact me via http://www.seshat.ch
    Franz Gnaedinger, Zurich

  35. Jim says

    It seems to me that they represent construction tools necessary for the difficult measurements necessary to complete the tunnel, but have the dualistic meaning as Temple symbols reminding us to be straight, true and undeviating to the covenants of the Lord.

  36. Yarah says

    Being that the Temple was originally built around or near the spring they could possibly be, like some have mentioned, grooved for equipment to be precise as possible from that point. I wouldn’t be surprised if they uncovered similar grooves at other points around Gihon Spring with distances provided in the bible for the temple construction. This would be very controversial, though, so even if they were to find more they would probably be kept quiet.

  37. Steven says

    You need to see the other rooms next to this one. Their is an olive press to make oil for the priests and a trench to drain blood from sacrificial animals. These V-shapes look like spots to put the bases of slaughter tables in. The priest would stand behind the V and two on one side and one on the other working together on a table to slaughter. This could be the side rooms of Zerubbabel’s temple that was buried when Simon razed the temple mount Zion to cleanse it from the desolation cause by Antiochus Epiphanes. Simon moved Mount Zion to the south end of the “old” city and rebuilt the temple over the buried remains of Zerubbabel’s temple. It was Simon’s temple that Herod rebuilt.

  38. bob says

    i have seen these symbols in only one christian religion

  39. Semaj says

    Since the spring didn’t have enough “head” to raise water up to the temple mount, I wonder if this may have been the base for an Archimedes screw to lift the water up? Without enough visible area, it’s tough to tell other than a wild guess.

    Anyone ever notice the original City of David was shaped like a fish?

  40. Alex says

    Since the Gihon Spring is associated with the River of Life, Eden, and adjacent to real location of the Temple – it is an area where God walked with/met man and visa versa. The opposing V’s remind me of the Water Triangle also called the Deity’s Triangle of which they may be an early form or used in the above depiction. The Water Triangle was used in Freemasonry to denote man becoming God. Of course man cannot do so alone after the Temple period to return to his roots without a Mediator. Refer to Water Triangle here http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/symbology/3o5.htm After all, denial or not, we all seek some form of return to the Garden. Also refer http://www.askelm.com/temple/t040301.htm Thus at this time it appears to me to be a marking so that those who enter and exit are reminded of the sanctity of the area in Old Testament times. Perhaps a Hebrew scholar should cast more light on it as a whole if it be read in the usual Hebrew fashion from top right to left, then right to left again.

  41. Joanna says

    I would agree that it is to hold / or stabilize an ancient tool or torch. I would start looking at tools/ torches/ lampstands or keys from that time period.

  42. Eva says

    I think it stands for “who gives life”, a bad translation of ” Haba” in latin alphabet. These waters were absolutely precious, a real source of life.
    Waters were impersonated as female and all the key places in the Ancient World were built near to the most important places to survive: rivers, pools, springs, it means, waters that can be drank by human beings.
    The main sign you must carve is the one that shows you the path to a water course…if you want to stay alive. And I supposed that this place became sacred later for the first settlers.
    Romans were very practical people who conquered this place so spending time in rock carving is far from a waste of time. This sign is very logical.

  43. Scott says

    Possibly markings left behind from the Jebusites.

  44. Scott says

    Since the Temple required a huge amount of water and also that water symbolizes God’s spirit , it is important to note that the temple must be built over a spring. This is the true site of both temples. There is not a spring on Mount Moriah site of the Temple Mount. In fact there isn’t another spring for miles. The spring is the only reason Jerusalem was settled at the beginning.

  45. Franz says

    Modifying my reading from 2014 to ACCw or maybe AGGw, phonetically between AC CA and Hawwa, graphically an ideogram; explanation and sketch at the end of this page: http://www.seshat.ch/home/lasco13.htm (among the topics: water issue on the Göbekli Tepe and in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, Aaron as water engineer surpassing even his Egyptian colleagues, apiru as wandering channel diggers, Ark of the Covenant lost but not entirely, YHVH encoded in ‘mercy seat’, a pair of combined cubits define Solomon’s ‘molten sea’ and provide a better value for pi, heavenly Jerusalem in Ezekiel’s vision and John’s Revelation makes the Gihon spring become the source of the river of life – metaphorically the mother of life Hawwa).

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