First Temple Period Public Water Reservoir Unearthed in Jerusalem

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a large rock-hewn water reservoir dating back to the First Temple period in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden at the foot of Robinson’s Arch.

This is a large rock-hewn water reservoir discovered in Jerusalem (The Israel Antiquities Authority)

“It is now absolutely clear that the Jerusalem’s water consumption during the First Temple period was not solely based on the output of the Gihon Spring, but that it also relied on public reservoirs,” said Eli Shukron, excavation director at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The reservoir has an approximate capacity of 250 cubic meters, and is one of the largest water reservoirs from the First Temple period to be discovered so far in Jerusalem, and this was presumably a reservoir that was used by the general public.

“While excavating beneath the floor of the drainage channel a small breach in the bedrock was revealed that led us to the large water reservoir,” Shukron said.

“To the best of our knowledge this is the first time that a water reservoir of this kind has been exposed in an archaeological excavation. The exposure of the current reservoir, as well as smaller cisterns that were revealed along the Tyropoeon Valley, unequivocally indicates that Jerusalem’s water consumption in the First Temple period was not solely based on the output of the Gihon Spring water works, but also on more available water resources such as the one we have just discovered.”

“The large water reservoir that was exposed, with two other cisterns nearby, is similar in its general shape and in the kind of plaster to the light yellow plaster that characterized the First Temple period and resembles the ancient water system that was previously exposed at Bet Shemesh,” explained Dr Tvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist of the Nature and Parks Authority and an expert on ancient water systems.

“In addition, we can see the hand prints of the plasters left behind when they were adding the finishing touches to the plaster walls, just like in the water reservoirs of Tel Be’er Sheva, Tel Arad and Tel Bet Shemesh, which also date to the First Temple period. Presumably the large water reservoir, which is situated near the Temple Mount, was used for the everyday activities of the Temple Mount itself and also by the pilgrims who went up to the Temple and required water for bathing and drinking.”

The exposure of the impressive water reservoir that lies below Robinson’s Arch joins a series of finds that were uncovered during recent excavations in this region of the city, indicating the existence of a densely built-up quarter that extended across the area west of the Temple Mount and predating the expansion of the Temple Mount. It seems that with the expansion of the Temple Mount compound to the west and the construction of the public buildings and the streets around the Temple Mount at the end of the Second Temple period, the buildings from the First Temple period and early Second Temple period were dismantled in this region and all that remains of them is a series of rock-cut installations, among them the hewn water reservoir.