May 12, 2010

Aqueduct Discovered Dating Back To 14th Century

On Tuesday, archeologists said they have uncovered a 14th-century aqueduct that supplied water to Jerusalem for about 600 years along a route dating back to the time of Jesus.

Photographs from the late 19th century showed the aqueduct in use by the city's Ottoman rulers, about 600 years after its construction in 1320.  The photo shows an inscription dating back to the early days of the aqueduct.

The aqueduct was found during repairs to the city's modern-day water system.  Yehiel Zelinger, the archeologist in charge of excavation, said that public works projects proceed in cooperation with antiquities officials in a city where turning over a shovel of dirt anywhere can turn back the pages of time.

Zelinger said that the team discovered two of nine arched sections of a bridge about nine feet tall on the west side of Jerusalem's Old City.

Zelinger said that though archeologists knew the aqueduct was there, the find represents the first time they have had a glimpse of the intricate bridge system used for centuries to combat gravity and shuttle water from faraway sources.

Once the population of Jerusalem in biblical times outgrew a nearby spring, leaders started to look further away, discovering a water source near Bethlehem about 14 miles away.  Zelinger said they built a first aqueduct dating back 2,000 years on the same path of the one found today.

"It's really amazing and well-preserved," Zelinger told AFP. "This was the source of water for Jerusalem for all the period dating back to the Second Temple," the era of Jesus.

This aqueduct bridge funneled water from Bethlehem and across a valley known as Sultan's Pools into the Old City.  The bridge provided the biggest source of Jerusalem's water through the Ottoman period when the city's rulers added a metal pipeline to the stone structure.  Zelinger said the bridge was buried shortly after.

The city hopes to incorporate the find into future construction.

Old City Image Courtesy Wikipedia