A 300-meter (984.25 ft) section of a late Second Temple Period aqueduct has been found in Jerusalem, illuminating ancient Roman engineering. The aqueduct’s design reveals the innovation of that era, providing insights into water sourcing and distribution in a bustling ancient city.
Designed to transport water across vast distances, to elevate the quality of life in ancient civilizations, aqueducts were remarkable feats of engineering. Utilizing gravity to direct water through carefully constructed channels. Often spanning hundreds of miles, these intricate hydraulic systems were prevalent in the Roman Empire .
Relying on precise calculations and sophisticated construction techniques, aqueducts enabled urban growth, facilitated agriculture, and supplied public baths, fountains, and households with clean water. Now, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) says a team of archaeologists have discovered the “longest portion found so far, of the Upper-Level Aqueduct,” which provided Roman elites with fresh water.
Unearthing the Longest Expanse of a Second Temple Period Aqueduct
Israeli archaeologists announced on Monday that they have excavated a 300-meter-long (984 ft) ancient aqueduct in Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood. An article in Times of Israel explains that the ruined aqueduct was discovered under tons of waste during construction work. The IAA said this is “the longest expanse of the Upper-Level Aqueduct” that has been discovered in the Holy City to date. IAA director Eli Escusido said, “The Jerusalem aqueducts tell the story of the city.”
When functional, the aqueduct was one of two that were constructed during the late Second Temple Period , between 37 BC and 70 AD. At this time, the Second Temple in Jerusalem thrived, before its eventual destruction in 70 AD. The second, low-level aqueduct, brought water to the Temple Mount, while this one was designed specifically to transport water from natural springs near Bethlehem, around 21 kilometers (13 mi) away, to Jerusalem.
An aerial view of a 300-meter (984.25 ft) long Second Temple Period Aqueduct found in Jerusalem. (Emil Aladjem/ IAA)
Luck Was Used to Protect the Water Pipes
The newly discovered portion of aqueduct comprises three distinct stretches, two of which were built during the Second Temple period, and the third by Roman legionnaires. The Romans used the aqueduct for several decades after they destroyed the Second Temple, and they even raised it, so that it was as high as three meters (9.84 ft) in some places.
Ofer Sion and Rotem Cohen, the two IAA archaeologists who lead the recent dig, said that similarly to today the coins were “placed there for luck”. Furthermore, Sion and Cohen think the discovery of the water system could help in “dating when different parts of the aqueduct were built.” But also, in “determining whether the work began under the Hasmoneans or King Herod ”.
Fighting For Cultural Supremacy in the City of God
IAA director Eli Escusido said the discovery of the aqueduct “testifies to the glory days of the Second Temple, the destruction of the city, and the building of it after the destruction of the temple as Aelia Capitolina,” around 135 AD. Named after Hadrian’s family name (Aelius) and Jupiter Capitolinus, ‘ Aelia Capitolina ’ aimed to finally erase Jewish identity, and to reconfigure the city as a Roman colony.
Fronted by Simon Bar KokhbaIn in 132-136 AD, the Jewish uprising against Roman rule in ancient Judea aimed to regain Jewish sovereignty. However, despite initial successes, the Romans soon crushed the Jewish rebellion, resulting in significant casualties and far-reaching consequences for the Jewish population, Jerusalem and the extended landscape. Jews were restricted from entering the city, so the establishment of Aelia Capitolina was a pivotal event in reshaping the cultural and religious landscape of Jerusalem.
Top image: Archaeologists work on the ancient Upper-Level Second Temple Period Aqueduct, which provided the city with fresh water. Source: Emil Aladjem/ IAA
By Ashley Cowie