Most Jerusalemites identify the Sultan’s Pool as a venue where large cultural events are held; however, for hundreds of years it was one of the city’s most important water reservoirs.
In an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority recently conducted prior to the construction of the Montefiore Museum, which the Jerusalem Foundation plans to build in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, an aqueduct was uncovered that conveyed water to the Temple Mount and also served as the principal water supply to the Sultan’s Pool. The excavation, directed by Gideon Solimany and Dr. Ron Beeri of the Israel Antiquities Authority, focused on a section along the course of the Low-level Aqueduct, on the western side of Ben Hinnoam Valley above the Derekh Hebron bridge.
According to Dr. Ron Beeri, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “We are dealing with a very impressive aqueduct that reached a height of three meters. Naturally, one of the first things Sultan Suleiman I hastened to do in Jerusalem (along with the construction of the city wall as we know it today) was to repair the aqueduct that was already there which supplied the large numbers of pilgrims who arrived in Jerusalem with water for drinking and purification. Suleiman attached a small tower to the aqueduct, inside of which a ceramic pipe was inserted. The pipe diverted the aqueduct’s water to the Sultan’s Pool and the impressive sabil (a Muslim public fountain for drinking water), which he built for the pilgrims who crossed the Derekh Hebron bridge and is still preserved there today”. Dr. Beeri said, “It is evident that the location of the aqueduct was extremely successful and efficient: we found four phases of different aqueducts that were constructed in exactly the same spot, one, Byzantine, from the sixth-seventh centuries CE and three that are Ottoman which were built beginning in the sixteenth century CE. The last three encircle a large subterranean water reservoir that was apparently built before the Ottoman period”.
The Low-level Aqueduct is one of two ancient water conduits that originated at the springs in the Hebron Highlands and at Solomon’s Pools, and terminated in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. We can learn about the construction of the aqueducts and the repairs that were carried out on them from various historical sources which date from as early as the Second Temple period, as well as from later sources. Different sections of the aqueduct’s course were also exposed in archaeological surveys and excavations that were conducted from the middle of the nineteenth century until the present. Research has shown that the ancient aqueduct was meant to supply high quality spring water to the Temple Mount, to Jerusalem’s residents and to the many pilgrims that have come to the city over the course of generations. After the Great Revolt was suppressed and the temple was destroyed, the aqueduct served the Tenth Legion and afterwards Aelia Capitolina, which was Roman Jerusalem. The aqueduct was also used during the period of Christian-Byzantine rule and throughout the years when Muslims governed in Jerusalem.
According to Dr. Beeri, “We can see that from the time of the Second Temple until the Byzantine period water flowed in an open channel that was covered with stone slabs. In later phases, beginning in the Ottoman period, water was conveyed in ceramic pipes which were installed inside the aqueduct”.
The Low-level Aqueduct is to be incorporated in the Montefiore Museum, which the Jerusalem Foundation plans to build inside the pool, adjacent to the aqueduct.