Archaeologists have discovered a large public cistern from
the time of the First Temple period in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Israel
Antiquities Authority said Thursday, offering new insight into the city’s water
supply more than 2,500 years ago.
The cistern, which held 250 cubic meters of water, was
discovered adjacent to the western side of the Temple Mount during an ongoing
excavation at the site.The discovery shows that the city’s water supply at the
time did not rely solely on the Gihon Spring, Jerusalem’s only natural water
source, but rather included large man-made reservoirs of the kind now uncovered.
The unique size of the cistern — the largest of its time to
be discovered in the city — and its location suggest the possibility that it
played a part in the ritual activities at the Temple, according to
archaeologist Tsvika Tsuk of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.The cistern
was waterproofed with a yellowish plaster typical of the period, with
handprints still visible on the walls, Tsuk said.
The First Temple was built around 950 BCE, according to the
biblical record, and destroyed by a Babylonian army in 586 CE.Construction of
the Second Temple commenced some 50 years later. The Temple Mount as it
currently exists dates to an expansion and renovation of the compound by Herod
the Great five centuries after that, about 2,000 years ago. The Second Temple
was destroyed by Rome in 70 CE.
Photo credit: Courtesy
of the Israel Antiquities Authority/Vladimir Naykhin.