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Temple Aqueduct and Ritual Bath Excavated Opposite Temple Mount

reprinted from Arutz 7
01:00 Jan 15, '07 / 25 Tevet 5767

by Ezra HaLevi

Excavations being conducted opposite the Western Wall Plaza have uncovered an aqueduct that brought water to the Holy Temple, as well as a ritual bath from that period.

The never-before-excavated area is situated behind the Western Wall police station, adjacent to the plaza where millions of worshipers and tourists come each year to visit the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The new archaeological find uncovers a missing link in the ancient water system, known as the "Lower Aqueduct" which channeled water from Solomon's Pools near Bethlehem (located miles south of Jerusalem) directly to the national focal point of Jewish worship - the Temple Mount.

Solomon's pools, situated just north of the modern Jewish town of Efrat, covers an area of about 7 acres and are capable of containing three million gallons of water. A lengthy aqueduct conveyed the water from the lowest pool through Bethlehem, across the Gihon valley, along the western slope of the Tyropoeon valley, and into the cisterns underneath the Temple Mount. Today, the water from the pools reaches only Bethlehem due to the destruction of the aqueducts.

Current plans for the partition wall will leave Solomon's Pools outside the area of Jewish sovereignty.

The plastered hewn-stone mikva (ritual bath) unearthed at the excavation is from the Second Temple period. It was originally situated in the foundation level of a private home during the time of the Second Temple. The ritual bath was damaged at a later date when the bedrock cliff opposite it was hewn into a vertical wall that rose up to a maximum height of about thirty feet.

The most extensive remains are those of a Roman-Byzantine colonnaded street - the Eastern Cardo. Included in that area is a covered stoa, a row of shops and several artifacts.

The street appears on a 6th century map known as the Medaba Map and is known as the Eastern Cardo or the Valley Cardo. The lavish colonnaded street began at the Damascus Gate in the north and led south, running the length of the channel in the Tyropoeon Valley. Sections of this street were revealed in the past in the northern part of the Old City, at a depth of about four meters (12 feet) below the pavement. The full eleven-meter (33 foot) width of the original road was exposed in the present excavation for the first time.

"The street was paved with large flagstones that were set in place diagonally, in the customary method of the Roman world, which was probably meant to prevent wagons from slipping," Shlomit Wexler-Bdolah, the director of the excavations explained. She added that a drainage system was installed below the flagstones.

To the west of the street was a covered stoa that was six meters wide, and beyond it was a row of shops set inside cells whose walls were hewn out of the bedrock cliff. A large base of a magnificent corner column has just been exposed in the eastern side of the street and may be part of a building that stood there, or an intersection with an entrance to the road that runs to the east.

The Antiquities Authority is carrying out the excavations of the 80 by 200 foot area west of the Western Wall at the request of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. The area will soon be the site of the Western Wall Heritage Center.

Invading Romans' greatest obstacle uncovered in Jerusalem

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Jan. 15, 2007

by Etgar Lefkovits

An immense bedrock cliff uncovered opposite Jerusalem's Temple Mount may help explain why it took the Romans so long to capture what is now known as the Jewish Quarter almost two millenia ago, an Israeli archaeologist said Sunday.

The cliff, uncovered during a year-long excavation at the western edge of the Western Wall Plaza, was one of several important finds that include the remains of a colonnaded street called the Eastern Cardo, dating from the Roman-Byzantine period; a section of the Lower Aqueduct that conveyed water from Solomon's Pools to the Temple Mount; and a damaged rock-hewn and plastered Jewish mikve (ritual bath) that dates back to the Second Temple period, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced at a press conference.

The dig, which was conducted in an area that had not been excavated before due to plans for construction, also served to clarify the height of an immense bedrock cliff that separated the Upper City from the Temple Mount area. It in itself is "the most impressive" find, said Shlomit Wexler-Bedolah, the excavation director.

Wexler-Bedolah said the cliff's topography could help explain the slow Roman conquest, noting that it took the Roman army an entire month from the time they destroyed the Temple Mount on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av until they captured the ground of today's Jewish Quarter on the 10th day of the following month.

"This could have been a natural obstacle for the Roman army," she said.

Jerusalem regional archaeologist Jon Seligman focused on the significance of the road that was uncovered at the foot of the cliff - an elaborate colonnaded street known as the Eastern Cardo.

The street, which began at the Damascus Gate, ran the length of the Tyropoeon Valley channel. Sections of the street had previously been uncovered in the northern part of the Old City, on Rehov Ha-Gai and west of the Dung Gate.

Wexler-Bedolah said the current excavation exposed for the first time the full 11-meter width of the original road, which had been paved in the Roman manner with large flagstones set in place diagonally, probably to prevent wagons from slipping. A drainage system had been installed below the flagstones, she said.

A complex of shops and buildings constructed on the spot in the Middle Ages continued to exist through the Ottoman period and constituted part of the Mughrabi Quarter that stood at the site until 1967.

"This excavation allows us to learn an important chapter in thousands of years of history, stage after stage and period after period in the existence of this city," Wexler-Bedolah said.

The newly found remnants of the capital's past will be preserved underneath the new Western Wall Heritage Center, which is slated to be built at the site and whose planning sparked the "rescue (or salvage) dig." The center, whose construction is expected to take several years and is being underwritten by US media mogul Mort Zuckerman, will include an educational center, a video conference room, a VIP lounge and a police station, said Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitch.

There have never been any archaeological excavations on the Temple Mount itself due to the site's holy status for both Jews and Muslims.

 

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