Photo Credit: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Section of 2,000-year-old aqueduct discovered near HaHoma in southern Jerusalem.

A section of Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct, which conveyed water to the city more than 2,000 years ago, was exposed during the construction install a modern sewer system for Arabs in the villages of Umm Tuba and Sur Bahar, near HaHoma in southern Jerusalem.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct.

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Excavation director Yaakov Billig said:

The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hashmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about 100 ago. The aqueduct begins at the ‘En ‘Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers (12 miles) long.

Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer. At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel and about 500 years ago, during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water.

The aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor.

Since this is one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it for 2,000 years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system.

Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.

The Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct was documented, studied, and covered up again for the sake of future generations.

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