Sunday, May 16, 2010

The bridge that carried water over Gehennom

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Last week the big news broke of the discovery of this aqueduct bridge that crosses Jerusalem's Hinnom Valley (Gei Hinnom).
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This photo from the 1880s shows the arches already partly covered.
(The Citadel/Tower of David and Jaffa Gate are in the background.)
Sometime in the early 20th century the area was filled and the beautiful stone bridge was totally covered and eventually forgotten.
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April 27 photograph by Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the IAA
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The Gihon waterworks company was digging, doing work on sewers, when they stumbled upon the old bridge.
The Israel Antiquities Authority stepped in and started excavating.
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Photo by Assaf Peretz, courtesy of IAA
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This is part of the Lower Aqueduct, first built in the Hasmonean period.
Miles of channels, tunnels, and aqueducts carried water to Jerusalem and to the Temple Mount from Solomon’s Pools, south of Bethlehem.
The ingenious system kept on working till the start of the 20th century.
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The bridge was built in 1320 CE (in the Mamluk period) by Sultan Nasser al-Din Muhammed Ibn Qalawun, as evidenced by the dedicatory inscription set in it (visible in the historic photo above).
However, it was apparently constructed to replace an earlier bridge dating to the time of the Second Temple period that was part of the original aqueduct.
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The IAA website says, "The Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority, is working to expose the entire length of the arched bridge, conserve it and integrate it in the framework of the overall development of the Sultan’s Pool, as part of underscoring the importance of the water supply to Jerusalem in ancient times."
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So far, two of the original nine arches have been excavated to their full height of about three meters.
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UPDATE Jan. 5, 2014: 
See also  http://www.israeldailypicture.com/2014/01/funny-it-doesnt-look-like-mountain-or.html
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19 comments:

Louis la Vache said...

WOW, Dina! What an amazing post!

«Louis» put your Bridge on Linky at his Sunday Bridges post for you.

B SQUARED said...

I almost get the impression you just stick a shovel in the ground and find antiquities. Must be fabulous to be so close to history.

Halcyon said...

This is a really nice bridge. And a very interesting story to go with it too. It's amazing what people could do before modern engineering and such.

Sara said...

If I ever make it back to Jerusalem there will be so many new things to see...including this!

Petrea said...

I don't know why old things seem so much more beautiful to me than new things. Maybe it's because of all the stories that go with them, and the untouchable, unknowable lives that have passed through them.

Chuck Pefley said...

The mystery for me is how grand scale structures and systems such as this were actually built without the benefit of the power tools available to us today. Super craftsmen for sure!

Thanks, Dina.

spacedlaw said...

How fitting that water works should uncover the hidden aqueduct.

VP said...

Great and amazing discovery, I am sorry that I probably walked over it...

Kim said...

What fun to read your interesting post on the aqueduct, Dina! Thank you for all the background information and the great photos. You bring it all to life for us :-).
-Kim

cieldequimper said...

Fantastic Dina. I envy you your job.

Hilda said...

Wow, what a find! Ancient engineering feats are just so amazing and fascinating! Sometimes I wish we never discovered fuel-powered engines…

Leif Hagen said...

That's an amazing water bridge history! Who would have thunk?

Virginia said...

Fascinating read Dina. Built so long ago and then whoooossshhhh, the 20th century comes along and covers the whole thing up. Sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what people are thinking!
V

Petrea said...

Well said, spacedlaw.

Sarah said...

Ohhh, That's very nice! We have some old bridge in Isfahan which are incredible, too!

Rob and Mandy said...

That's the old problem in Israel, you can't dig a hole without finding something. How did they actually resolve the problem of the highway around the old town? If I remember well, there was an old cemetary blocking the way, and the religious authorities were refusing to displace the tombs, or something like that...

Dina said...

Shalom friends, thanks for all your good comments. I agree!

Rob and Mandy, graves are a big problem. Today, as we speak, the Hareidim (ultra-Orthodox) are rioting in Jerusalem and getting arrested in Ashkelon as work begins of moving pagan graves to build a hospital emergency room.

See http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israel-graves-in-ashkelon-er-row-are-byzantine-not-jewish-1.290547
for instance.

Catherine said...

That's a very interesting post, Dina ! I imagine the excitement, and the feeling of those who made this discovery.....

Kaori said...

Oh wow! That is so amazing! And a really great post for Sunday Bridges :-)