ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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'Testifies to the glory days of the Second Temple'

300-meter stretch of aqueduct from late Second Temple period uncovered in Jerusalem

Antiquities Authority says newly discovered ruins are the longest portion found so far of the Upper-Level Aqueduct, which brought water to the ancient city’s ruling elites

A handout photo sent out by the Israel Antiquities Authority on August 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of a 300 meter-long stretch of the Upper-Level Aqueduct found in Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood. (Emil Aladjem/IAA)
A handout photo sent out by the Israel Antiquities Authority on August 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of a 300 meter-long stretch of the Upper-Level Aqueduct found in Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood. (Emil Aladjem/IAA)

Israeli archaeologists have uncovered a 300-meter-long (984-foot) stretch of an ancient aqueduct that served Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.

The ruins, which were discovered under tons of waste during construction work on a school in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, is the longest expanse of the Upper-Level Aqueduct that archaeologists have found to date, the IAA said.

The watercourse was one of two conduits built during the late Second Temple period to ferry water to Jerusalem from natural springs near Bethlehem, around 21 kilometers (13 miles) away.

The Upper-Level Aqueduct channeled water to what was known as the upper city, where royal palaces and the homes of other elites were located and today houses the Old City’s Jewish and Armenian Quarters, while the Low-Level Aqueduct brought water to the Temple Mount.

The Romans continued to use the aqueduct for decades after destroying Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 CE and later carried out renovations that included raising it.

According to the IAA, 25 coins were found scattered within the plaster used for the work, including one commemorating the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans.

A handout photo sent by the Israel Antiquities Authority on August 28, 2023, shows archaeology work on a 300 meter-long stretch of the Upper-Level Aqueduct found in Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood. (Emil Aladjem/IAA)

“Much like today, the coins were placed there for luck,” Ofer Sion and Rotem Cohen, the IAA officials leading the dig, were quoted as saying in a statement announcing the find.

The newly discovered portion is made up of three distinct stretches, two of which were constructed during the Second Temple period and the third by Roman legionnaires.

Praising the quality of the building, the IAA said the aqueduct rose as high as three meters in some areas.

According to Sion and Cohen, the discovery could help in dating when different parts of the aqueduct were built and determining whether the work began under the Hasmoneans or King Herod.

A handout photo sent by the Israel Antiquities Authority on August 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of a 300 meter-long stretch of the Upper-Level Aqueduct found in Jerusalem’s Givat Hamatos neighborhood. (Emil Aladjem/IAA)

“The Jerusalem aqueducts tell the story of the city,” IAA director Eli Escusido said.

“They testify 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, an idolatrous city,” he added, referring to the name the Roman emperor Hadrian gave to the city.

Escusido also suggested work would be done to preserve the site and open it to the public.

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