Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Cave used by Israelite and Judahite kings and escapees from the much later First Jewish Revolt?
Archaeologists excavating in the ancient Ophel area near the Temple Mount (or Haram Ash-Sharif) of Jerusalem have uncovered a plaster-lined cave with an associated system of subterranean tunnels that may tell a story about life there when the Romans besieged the city during the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE... The cave also appeared to be connected to a structure dated to the First Temple period (10th to 6th centuries BCE) above it, which featured water channels for directing water into the cave. This suggested to the archaeologists that they were actually exploring what was originally an ancient water cistern. Given the location, the water cistern, which was not an atypical feature of ancient Jerusalem during the centuries when Jerusalem was ruled by Israelite and Judahite kings before Babylonian captivity in 586 BC, may have been used by Jerusalem's royalty for collecting and storing water.
Excavators found that the Herodian Period walls related to yet another key feature of the cave or cistern -- a system of tunnels carved from the rock, large enough to accommodate the passage of individuals from one location to another. The tunnels also revealed numerous shards of Herodian Period pottery, a ceramic type used to date the tunnels and shafts.
The project archaeologists suggest that the tunnels and shafts may possibly have been made and used by inhabitants of the city hiding or protecting themselves from the Roman siege of Jerusalem during the height of the First Jewish Revolt, an event well documented by the Jewish historian Josephus in his writing, The Jewish War. In it, he writes about the creation of subterranean caverns carved out of bedrock, used by individuals hiding or escaping from Roman soldiers as the city was being besieged. In the end, however, their efforts proved fruitless, as they were eventually discovered by their Roman pursuers and captured.