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A mystery in Jerusalem: What were the mysterious canal facilities from the days of Kings Jehoash and Amaziah that were uncovered in the City of David National Park used for?

The canal facilities, the likes of which have not yet been discovered in Israel, were in use about 2,800 years ago - during the time of the First Temple; According to the researchers from the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, "it is possible that the canals were used to soak some product. The central location of the canal facilities shows that the product produced in them was associated with a palace or a temple"

The works in the ancient canal. Photo by Emil Eljam, Antiquities Authority
The works in the ancient canal. Photo by Emil Eljam, Antiquities Authority

What was the unknown product that was important to the economy of the city, the temple or the palace in the days of the ancient kings of Judah? Unique and large-scale production facilities, carved into the rock, from the 9th century BC, were uncovered in the excavations of the Givati ​​parking lot, managed by the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in the City of David National Park, funded by the Elad association. The use of the facilities has not yet been clarified, but their uniqueness and location - near the temple and the palace of the kings - implies that their products were integrated into the economy of the important institutions.

In the excavation, so far, two facilities have been discovered about 10 meters apart, and it is possible that they belonged to one large facility. The facilities are not known anywhere else in Israel, hence their uniqueness. The first facility was found by the excavators at the northeastern end of the Givat parking lot, and it includes a series of at least nine canals smoothed with a carefully made finish. On the rock cliff, which borders the facility to the south, you can see seven gutters, which led liquids from the top of the rock block, which was used as an activity area, to the canal facility.

Dr. Yeftah Shalu, senior researcher at the Antiquities Authority, says: "We looked at the facility and realized that we had stumbled upon something unique, but since we had never seen a similar facility in Israel, we didn't know how to interpret it. Its date was also unclear. We brought a number of experts to the area, who will check whether there are any remains in the ground or rock that are not visible to the eye, and who will be able to help us understand what flowed or stood in the canals. We asked to check whether there were any organic remains or traces of blood, and for that we even used the police's forensics unit and its contacts with investigators around the world, but so far - to no avail."

"The mystery only continued to develop as soon as we found the second facility to the south," he says Prof. Yuval Gadot from the Department of Archeology at Tel Aviv University. "This facility consists of at least five channels that carry liquids. 

Despite some differences in the way the canals were cut and designed, it is clear that the second facility is very similar to the first," adds Gadot. "This time, we were also able to date the facility's withdrawal from use - the end of the 9th century BC, the days of Kings Jehoash and Amaziah. We assume that the installations, which, as mentioned, may have been used together, were carved several decades earlier."

According to Prof. Gadot, "This is a period in which we know that Jerusalem spread over an area that included the City of David branch, and the Temple Mount that served as the heart of the city. The central location of the canal facilities near the important parts of the city indicates that the product produced with the help of the canals was connected to the economy of the temple or the palace. It should be remembered that a ritual activity includes the bringing of agricultural produce from animals and plants to the temple; Many times, the visitors to the temple took back with them products that carried with them the sanctity of the place."

"Since the canals do not lead to a large drainage basin and the direction of their flow changes, it is possible that the canals, at least in the northern facility, were used for soaking products - and not for draining liquids," adds Dr. Shalu. "Making threads from linen, for example, requires soaking the linen for a long time to soften it. Another possibility is that the trenches contained dates that were left to be heated in the sunlight to produce silan (date honey), as in facilities of a similar shape that were discovered in distant places such as Oman, Bahrain and Iran." Dr. Shalu points out that "in the near future we will take additional samples of soil from the facilities, and try - once again, to identify ingredients in it that can help us solve the mystery: what was the product that was important to the economy of the city, the temple or the palace".

According to Eli Escozido, director of the Antiquities Authority"The ancient canal system in front of us intrigues and excites the imagination. The excavations in the City of David, which are carried out over vast areas in comparison to the densely populated Jerusalem, reveal to us more and more intriguing details about the days of the kings, of which there are relatively few finds in the old city due to modern disturbances. From time to time we discover surprising, puzzling findings that challenge us and create research interest. With the help of blessed collaborations with other bodies, we crack these puzzles and reach the forefront of the research stage."

More of the topic in Hayadan:

One response

  1. After all, it is already written in the Torah that the canals were used to transport water to the Temple, the water was used to bathe the priests and Levites who served in the Temple

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