The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Jerusalem archaeologist Eli Shukron announced the discovery of a large First Temple period reservoir today, reshaping our understanding of ancient water systems and water access in First Temple period Jerusalem. The rock-hewn and plastered reservoir has a capacity of over 8,000 cubic feet, the first of its size and kind discovered in First Temple period Jerusalem. Previous understanding of contemporaneous public ancient water systems focus on access to the Gihon Spring,* which became accessible from Jerusalem through Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the Siloam Channel over the course of the First Temple Period. The large size of the reservoir, coupled with evidence of smaller cisterns in the area, suggests that the water would have been available for the broader urban population, and would have supplemented the Gihon Spring as a main water source.
While the First Temple period is central to learning about the Jerusalem of the Hebrew Bible, archaeological evidence often lies below by later construction. According to the Hebrew Bible, the First Temple of Jerusalem was built under King Solomon and the period extends until the Temple’s destruction by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in the sixth century B.C.E. The reservoir was discovered in the course examining a Second Temple period drainage channel, which ran through existing rock-hewn structures, including the reservoir. The reservoir lies below Robinson’s Arch, and is one of several structures in the area that predates the expansion of the Temple Mount. Before late Second Temple period construction, this may have been a densely populated quarter, according to the IAA press release.
In the press release, Dr. Tvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist of the Nature and Parks Authority, stated that the plaster used is a characteristic of the First Temple period and that the reservoir shares similar features to contemporaneous ancient water systems, such as at Bet Shemesh. He suggested that this reservoir would have been used for everyday activity on the Temple Mount as well as for pilgrims’ bathing and drinking.
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