2,000-year-old water supply system unearthed in Israel

An ancient aqueduct built more than 2,000 years ago to transport water into the city of Jerusalem has been unearthed.

Jerusalem: An ancient aqueduct built more than 2,000 years ago to transport water into the city of Jerusalem has been unearthed.

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, a section of Jerusalem's Lower Aqueduct, which conveyed water to the city more than 2,000 years ago, was exposed in the Umm Tuba quarter (near Har Homa) during the construction of a sewer line.

The authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct.

"The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago," said Ya'akov Billig, the excavation director.

The aqueduct begins at the 'En 'Eitam spring, near Solomon's Pools, south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometres long.

Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometre of distance.

At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel and about 500 years ago, during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water.

The aqueduct's route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighbourhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor.

Since this is one of Jerusalem's principal sources of water, the city's rulers took care to preserve it for some two thousand years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system.

Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct, and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.

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