A long section of the Upper Aqueduct to Jerusalem was uncovered in archaeological excavations at Giv’at Hamatos.

A long section of the ancient Upper Aqueduct was revealed in Israel Antiquities Authority archaeological excavations carried out prior to the expansion of the Giv’at Hamatos neighborhood in Jerusalem. The excavations were initiated by the Jerusalem Municipality before the construction of a school complex and funded by the Arim Urban Development Company. Among other finds, a coin from the time of the First Jewish Revolt against the Romans—a couple of years before the destruction of the Second Temple—was found in the aqueduct’s infrastructure. The excavations uncovered a 300-meter-long section of the aqueduct that once transported water to Jerusalem’s upper city, where Herod’s palace and the houses of the wealthy and prominent citizens stood some 2000 years ago.

“Towards the end of the Second Temple period, when Jerusalem underwent significant expansion, and Herod’s Temple was built, the water flowing in the springs and stored in the cisterns was no longer sufficient for the thousands of residents and pilgrims in the city. Water had to be transferred to the city from afar,” said Dr. Ofer Sion and Ruth Cohen, the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Due to this situation, the Hasmoneans and King Herod built two complex aqueducts to transport water to Jerusalem, constituting one of the grandest and most sophisticated water projects in the country, and indeed, in the ancient world. The aqueducts trapped water from springs in the Bethlehem region, and by the construction of large pools, and the implementation of hydraulic laws (the siphon principle of communicating vessels based on the force of gravity), topography, and an extraordinary level of engineering, the water flowed over many kilometers.”

The Upper Aqueduct continued to function even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, as the Tenth Roman Legion, who destroyed the Jewish Temple, established their base in the upper city. “Even with the establishment of the new pagan city Aelia Capitolina, the Tenth Legion continued to use and upkeep the sophisticated aqueduct,” explain Sion and Cohen. “We found about 25 coins in the aqueduct foundations, distributed at fairly equal distances. In our opinion, this is hardly coincidental, but just as is still common today, the Tenth Legion builders placed the coins there for good fortune.” Among the other coins, a coin from the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans, dating to 67/68 CE, was discovered in the infrastructure of the aqueduct. The researchers consider that the Legion builders incorporated this coin intentionally in its foundations when they laid the aqueduct.

“The exposure of this section of the Upper Aqueduct and the discovery of the 25 coins may enable– possibly for the first time—an absolute dating of the different stages of the construction of Jerusalem’s water aqueducts. It may shed light on the question of who built the first aqueduct—whether it was the Hasmoneans, or King Herod,” the researchers say. The route of the Upper Aqueduct followed a convenient and gentle topographical course. So far, three distinct parts have been identified: the lower two parts dating from the Late Second Temple period, and the upper part dating from the days of the Roman Legion stationed in the upper city.