2,000 years of water in Jerusalem

A spectacular arched bridge that was part of the ancient aqueduct which conveyed water to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem was exposed in archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted near the Sultan’s Pool.

(Communicated by the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Part of the ancient aqueduct which conveyed water to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority

Work on the city’s modern water infrastructure uncovered a section of Jerusalem’s ancient aqueduct. While the Gihon Corporation was working on the sewage infrastructure in the vicinity of the Sultan’s Pool in the Jerusalem Walls National Park, a section of Jerusalem’s ancient aqueduct was discovered.

In the wake of this discovery, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an excavation in which a spectacular arched bridge was revealed that was part of the very old aqueduct that conveyed water to the Temple Mount.

The bridge as seen in the 19th century

According to Yehiel Zelinger, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “The bridge, which could still be seen at the end of the 19th century and appears in old photographs, was covered over during the twentieth century. We were thrilled when it suddenly reappeared in all its grandeur during the course of the archaeological excavations.”

Zelinger said, “The route of the low level aqueduct from the time of the Second Temple, beginning at Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem and ending at the Temple Mount, is well known to scholars: substantial parts of it were documented along the edge of Yemin Moshe neighborhood and on the slope adjacent to the western wall of the Old City. The upper part of the Hinnom Valley passes between the two sections of aqueduct where the Sultan’s Pool was built as a reservoir for flood water. In order to maintain the elevation of the path along which the water flowed, a bridge was erected above the ravine. Two of the original nine arches that were in the bridge were currently excavated to their full height of about three meters.”

“The bridge was built in 1320 CE (in the Mamluke period) by Sultan Nasser al-Din Muhammed Ibn Qalawun, as evidenced by the dedicatory inscription set in it; however, it was apparently constructed to replace an earlier bridge dating to the time of the Second Temple period that was part of the original aqueduct.”

The Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, is working to expose the entire length of the arched bridge, conserve it and integrate it in the framework of the overall development of the Sultan’s Pool, as part of underscoring the importance of the water supply to Jerusalem in ancient times.

The Gihon Corporation, whose name preserves that of Jerusalem’s ancient source of water, is assisting in funding excavations that uncover Jerusalem’s ancient water systems.

11 May 2010

MFA Website

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