First Century Drain Found in Jerusalem

Haaretz reports:

A 70-meter-long segment of Jerusalem’s central drain dating from the Second Temple period was discovered Sunday by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The segment is located between the Temple Mount and the Pool of Siloam. It apparently was part of a long drain that spanned from the Western Wall to the Kidron River, near the Dead Sea.
The drain stretched underneath the Old City’s main street, and cleared rainwater from the areas now known as the Jewish Quarter and the western section of City of David, as well as the Temple Mount, before the city’s destruction at the hands of the Romans in 70 C.E.
The excavation, conducted by the Antiquities Authority in conjunction with City of David Foundation, also found shards and coins from the period. The drain is made of massive slabs of stone, and is about three meters high and one meter wide.
The archeologists professors Roni Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukrun from the Antiquities Authority, who are in charge of the excavation, say that the land that accumulated during 2000 years of landslides required them to dig 10 meters deep in order to reach ancient Jerusalem’s main street.
“According to Josephus, the historian who recorded the siege, occupation and destruction of Jerusalem, people found refuge in the drain until they managed to escape through the city’s southern gate,” they said.
The northern segment of the drain,  which is yet to be dug up, is believed to reach the Western Wall area, where another major drain was previously found. The archeologists assume that they are both part of the same drain.

Drains have been found in Jerusalem before, including other segments of this same drain.  But if the word “drain” doesn’t excite you, it may be because you missed the size of what they found.  The drain they uncovered was 70 meters (220 ft) long, 3 meters (10 ft) high and 1 meter (3 ft) wide.

The article doesn’t state exactly where the drain is located, but Reich and Shukrun have excavated in two areas in recent years that are possibilities.  I think location B, depicted on the aerial photo, is more likely.  Earlier excavations and photos of this area were included in the February issue of the BiblePlaces Newsletter (not online, but see Leen Ritmeyer’s blog for a photo from it).

Temple Mount and City of David aerial from sw, tb q010703 
UPDATE: The AP article includes a photograph of the channel (HT: Joseph Lauer).  Very impressive.  The masonry on that drain is better than the masonry of most people’s houses in Jerusalem today.
UPDATE (9/10): Some of the artifacts found in the excavation are displayed in this photograph.
UPDATE (9/11): The Israel Antiquities Authority has issued a press release.

20 thoughts on “First Century Drain Found in Jerusalem

  1. Hello Todd:
    My name is Rodrigo Insunza. I am journalist in Chile and I request excuses to you by my English. To read and I speak your language very little. I greet and I congratulate by your page Web to you. Is possible that your you can translate it to the Spanish soon. It interests much to me the subjects that your you treat in her.
    My email is [email protected]

    Warm and affectionate greetings from Chile

    Rodrigo Insunza

  2. Rodrigo – thank you for the kind words. Unfortunately writing posts in English is all that I can handle. Perhaps you can find some use in the online free translators. Or if someone wants to volunteer to translate this blog into Spanish, let me know. The BiblePlaces website, in its entirety, is available in French at http://www.biblelieux.com.

  3. Interesting. It would be interesting to know where this is in relationship to the “grand stairway”, as Leen calls it. Is it below, to the side, or further away? I can’t imagine it could be too far, so I wonder if they are below the area where you took the picture.

    How ironic to hear of such wonderful finds while the Temple Mount is being raped.

  4. This is a really cool discovery. It makes a little more sense after looking at Leen Ritmeyer’s blog and his drawings of what it would have looked like. When I was in Jerusalem, I think I got to walk in that area after Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Now after seeing the diagrams it brings to life even more.

  5. Todd,

    This is very interesting (see especially the AP article linked by Al Sandalow), but what you obviously fail to mention is that the tunnel/drain discovery strikingly confirms University of Chicago historian Norman Golb’s theory, now supported by an entire series of Israeli archaeologists, that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the remains of Jerusalem libraries, smuggled out of the city for hiding during the Roman siege of 70 A.D. In his books and articles, Golb has specifically argued that Jews used tunnels to get the scrolls out and took them down to the Dead Sea region through the Kidron valley, which is precisely where this tunnel is thought to exit.

    This also puts a spotlight on a current controversy involving a major exhibition of the Scrolls taking place in San Diego. Pursuant to an agreement that violates virtually all of the norms of institutional neutrality, the San Diego Natural History Museum has excluded Golb and all of the other researchers who have rejected the old “Qumran-Essene” theory of scroll origins from participating in its lecture series and, in the exhibit itself, has intentionally misinformed the public concerning the grounds supporting the Jerusalem theory.

    For further information on this outrageously partisan exhibit, see the posting entitled “Chronology of Dead Sea Scrolls controversy in San Diego” on WordPress, and the articles by Charles Gadda on the Nowpublic site, in particular the one entitled “Christian fundamentalism and the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego.”

    Follow Gadda’s links for his other articles too, they expose a truly outrageous scandal.

  6. A few thoughts on the previous comment by “Museum Ethics Controversy”

    1. That this drain has anything to do with Golb’s theory is nonsense. It’s very simple to get to the Kidron Valley from anywhere in Jerusalem, and you don’t need a drain to do it. Furthermore, if you do go down the Kidron Valley (not an easy way), you don’t end up at Qumran. In fact, if you go that way, you’re clearly heading somewhere other than Qumran. (And if you look at your map and think I’m wrong, that’s because you can’t understand the geography by looking at a simple map which makes the sites look close together; traveling between the two could be done by boat but is very difficult by land.)

    2. The point of the comment was not to talk about the drain but was to promote a certain agenda which has nothing to do with the post. It’s been done here before many times: an anonymous commenter trashes the majority view of the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls and pushes an esoteric view with a link or reference to a website(s). I’m not going to delete this comment, but I would encourage readers to think carefully. The internet makes it easy to peddle anything, and on the BiblePlaces Blog, no one has been more pushy than the Gadda crowd.

  7. I would also encourage people to go and see the scroll exhibit if you are near San Diego. I took 50+ people to see them in Seattle and to be honest, it was a better experience than the Shrine of the Book in Israel.

  8. Todd,

    I must disagree with your statement concerning the Kidron valley. It could certainly NOT have been easy to get there from Jerusalem during the ROMAN SIEGE of the city, which is when Golb, Magen, Peleg, Elior and others have been arguing the Scrolls were removed from Jerusalem, no doubt through underground passages, for hiding. Moreover, the Copper Scroll specifically mentions the hiding of silver in the Kidron valley. That is why this latest discovery is indeed obviously significant with respect to the debate over the origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Golb’s book, pp. 146-57 describes the various wadi systems going eastward from Jerusalem, and then focuses in on the “Qidron [which] headed with its tributaries into the Judaean Wilderness and finally to the Dead Sea, south of Qumran. Between Mukallik and Qidron additional wadis began converging in the so-called Buqeiah region, coming together in the wadi Qumran gorge adjacent to Khirbet Qumran [here he gives details on the flow of water into Qumran]… Crucially, the Copper Scroll not only specifically mentions a deposit of four talents of silver hidden ‘by the dam at the mouth of the gorge of the Qidron,’ but also describes numerous hiding places near aqueducts, water channels and other installations. (Typical vestiges of such hydraulic systems may still be observed, for example, in the wadi Qelt; they were characteristic of wadis in Judaea situated near and between places of habitation.)”

    It seems to me that it is not at all fair of you to assert that we are dealing with an “esoteric” theory here. Rather, we are clearly dealing with serious historical and archaeological research that has led a growing number of scholars to opt for the Jerusalem theory.

    As for your statement regarding the “majority view,” this is no longer clear at all. Indeed, a poll taken at an international conference on the Copper Scroll found that a broad majority favored both the authenticity of the document and its Jerusalem origin.

    So allow me to respectfully disagree with you. Anonymity is not a crime, and if this massive drain or tunnel did, as has been said, exit in the Kidron valley, the Copper Scroll passage becomes doubly important. You should think very carefully and ask yourself, what if a mistake has been made? Are points (1) and (2) perhaps connected after all? Let readers judge for themselves; I’m not so sure they will agree with you in the end.

  9. P.s. I’m sorry about the typo in my comment above–the passage I quoted is on pp. 146-47, not 146-57, of Golb’s book. There are no doubt other typos as well, but no one’s perfect 🙂

  10. One further correction before going to sleep: by the “Jerusalem origin” of the Copper Scroll I meant, of course, the Jerusalem origin of the hidden artifacts (including treasures as well as “scrolls” and “writings”) described in it.

  11. BTW, does anyone know exactly what references to Josephus these articles talk about? The closest I can find are Jewish Wars VI:

    Here he talks about caverns (that is, at least the English translation) and people hiding, no mention of anyone actually escaping after Titus builds a wall around the city.

  12. Al Sandalow:

    You are entirely right, there is no Josephus passage that describes anyone in Jerusalem as hiding in a drain or tunnel.

    However, Golb (p. 145 of Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls) quotes Josephus, War 7.215, as stating that Judah son of Ari, a Jewish commander during the siege of Jerusalem, “secretly escaped through some of the underground passages.”

    My guess is that Reich had Golb’s argument based (in part) on the Copper Scroll and Josephus 7.215 in mind, but perhaps could not bring himself to mention a passage relied on by this “esoteric” University of Chicago historian, and became confused with the other Josephus passages about people hiding in caverns.

    Clearly, one can reasonably argue that the tunnel discovery sheds light on an important episode of Jewish history which, were it not for the Copper Scroll, would otherwise have been entirely forgotten. This is why I, like others, find it troubling that the various news accounts and press releases have been featuring an erroneous reference to Josephus, rather than speaking of the Copper Scroll, the wadi Kidron, and the Jerusalem theory of Scroll origins.

    Allow me to predict that soon enough, museum exhibits will be making the same amateurish claim about Josephus, without any mention of the Copper Scroll, and the only word of protest will come from some anonymous “museum ethics” character who no one will take seriously.

  13. >However, Golb (p. 145 of Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls) quotes Josephus, War 7.215, as stating that Judah son of Ari, a Jewish commander during the siege of Jerusalem, “secretly escaped through some of the underground passages.”

    I think this is a bit of a disconnect here. Most of the time you quote Josephus, you give the Name of the book (Jewish War, or War), the book number, the chapter number, and then a section number.

    Thus 7.215 throws me a bit. I assume it means book 7, chapter 2. But this chapter has only one section, so perhaps you mean “section 1, line 5”.

    That said, the normal text of Josephus never mentions a Judah, son of Ari. This section does mention a Simon who went underground with his followers:

    “This Simon, during the siege of Jerusalem, was in the upper city; but when the Roman army was gotten within the walls, and were laying the city waste, he then took the most faithful of his friends with him, and among them some that were stone-cutters, with those iron tools which belonged to their occupation, and as great a quantity of provisions as would suffice them for a long time, and let himself and all them down into a certain subterraneous cavern that was not visible above ground. Now, so far as had been digged of old, they went onward along it without disturbance; but where they met with solid earth, they dug a mine under ground, and this in hopes that they should be able to proceed so far as to rise from under ground in a safe place, and by that means escape. But when they came to make the experiment, they were disappointed of their hope; for the miners could make but small progress, and that with difficulty also; insomuch that their provisions, though they distributed them by measure, began to fail them.”

    This group never succeds and is caught by the Romans. Note that Jerusalem is filled with underground cisterns and cave like areas, many on the temple mount -near where this Simon is discovered and no where near the lower city.

    I believe the reference Glod makes must be to the “Slavonic Josephus” text, a text that appeared only in the middle ages and that most scholars view with the greatest of apprehension. It would be folly to base any theory on the additions contained in this text.

  14. Al,

    The exact reference given by Golb is not to an obscure medieval version of Josephus, but simply to War 7.215, Trans. Thakeray vol 3, p. 567 (see footnote 56 on page 419 of Golb’s book). The exact quotation from that page of Thakeray is as I stated above: the Judah in question “escaped through some of the underground passages.”

    Forgive me for assuming that you had a copy of Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls so you could look up the specifics. Incidentally, there is an interesting review of the book here:


  15. P.s. on the next page, Golb quotes Josephus War 5.496-497. I do not have a copy of Thakeray here, but that is clearly the format used in that edition of Josephus.

  16. P.p.s. once again a confounded typo on my part, Golb’s source is Thackeray not “Thakeray,” we are clearly dealing with the Harvard University (Loeb Classical Series) edition of Josephus, vol. 3 at page 567.

  17. I was quite amazed to read Al’s remark about the “medieval” version of Josephus, why on earth would he have come up with such a foolish idea? At any rate, Golb has posted an article about the tunnel discovery on the Oriental Institute website, which Al may wish to consult for a list of several relevant passages from Josephus. Apparently, not only did the archaeologists blunder in stating that Josephus described refugees hiding in this particular tunnel, but they also were not aware that several similarly gigantic tunnels were unearthed in Jerusalem during the 19th century (Golb reproduces four illustrations from a book published in 1876 entitled Underground Jerusalem). It’s really somewhat amazing how, over and over again, the public ends up being misinformed by amateurishly erroneous declarations coming from archaeologists who simply cannot get their act together and do their basic homework. The link to Golb’s article is:


    Incidentally, although I can certainly understand a reaction of discomfort when an anonymous individual posts views one disagrees with on one’s own blog, I must also take exception to the angry remarks directed against “the Gadda crowd,” who have in fact said some important things that need to be reflected on rather than ignored. I seem to recall that John Locke published the Letter Concerning Toleration anonymously, no one blames him for that today.

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