The City of David is located outside the walls of today’s Old City, south of the Temple Mount. This fascinating site is where Jerusalem was born - the place where it all began.
Aharon Horwitz. Director of the Megalim intitute in the City of David
Journey to the Beginning
The city of Jerusalem was first built on the hill south of temple mount by the ancient Canaanites in the 18th century b.c.e.
David son of Jesse, King of Israel, conquered the small Jebusite (Canaanite) city and made it his capital, which he called - the City of David (2nd Samuel 5). A visit to the City of David is a journey to the heart of one of the most compelling places in the world.
David and Solomon ruled here and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke their eternal words in this ancient site. The City of David is where Jerusalem was born - the place where it all began.
A Brief History of Ancient Jerusalem
The City of David is located outside the walls of today’s Old City, south of the Temple Mount. The ridge was inhabited as early as the Chalcolithic period (the fifth millennium BCE), but only some 4,000 years ago, during the Middle Bronze Age II (the period of the Patriarchs), was a walled city built here. Jerusalem first appears in the Bible as Shalem (Salem), the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14). The might of the city is reflected in the Egyptian execration texts, which refer to it as one of the Canaanite cities that threatened Egyptian hegemony in the region.
City of David & Silwan Village
Photo: Gad Rize
Jerusalem is also mentioned in the 14th century BCE Al-Amarna Letters, found in the royal archives of Pharaonic Egypt. Adoni-Zedek, the Canaanite ruler of Jerusalem (Joshua 10:1), was defeated by Joshua during the Israelite conquest of the land, but the city itself remained in Canaanite hands.
About 3,000 years ago (around 1000 BCE), King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and established it as his royal city. David’s choice of Jerusalem for his capital was based in part on the presence of a perennial water source - the Gihon Spring, the city’s strong defenses, its central location in the lands of the Israelite tribes, and the fact that as neutral territory, it could serve as a symbol of unity for the entire nation. Jerusalem also possessed a long heritage of sanctity linking it to ancient Shalem and to Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), the traditional site of the Binding of Isaac.
David built the royal palace and brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city, thus transforming it into a spiritual and a political center. David’s son Solomon enlarged the city to include Mount Moriah, where he built the Temple and his royal palace. After Solomon died, the kingdom was divided in two, and Jerusalem remained the capital of Judah only.
Toward the end of the eighth century BCE, the Assyrians vanquished the Kingdom of Israel and its capital, Samaria. Refugees from the Kingdom of Israel flocked to Jerusalem and settled in new neighborhoods built on the Western Hill, around which a broad wall was constructed.
Soon afterwards, the Assyrians conquered the cities of Judah but failed in their attempt to capture the capital, Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35). About 100 years later, in the Hebrew month of Av of the year 586 BCE, the Babylonians conquered the city and razed it to the ground. (2 Kings 25:8–9) The period of the Return to Zion (the late sixth century BCE) saw the renewal of Jewish settlement in Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah the governor rebuilt the ruined walls of the City of David (444 BCE). After the Hasmonean revolt (midsecond century BCE), the city once again became the capital of the kingdom.
During the Second Temple period, Jerusalem expanded again toward the Western Hill, the location of the Upper City, with the construction of an opulent residential quarter.
In the City of David, which was part of the Lower City, Queen Helen of Adiabene built several palaces for herself and her family, although the area was mostly inhabited by the poor. In the Great Revolt against Rome (66–70 CE), the City of David was razed to the ground. The Roman emperor Hadrian built his pagan city, Aelia Capitolina (135 CE), on the ruins of Jewish Jerusalem using stones quarried in the City of David. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, a large residential quarter was constructed on the northern part of the hill.
In the south, near the Shiloah (Siloam) Pool, the Church of Siloam was built during the fifth century and during the Early Muslim period; a residential area occupied the northern part of the hill. In the 11th century, the southern wall of Jerusalem was diverted northward, leaving the City of David outside the city limits. Over the year s , the location of the City of David was forgotten. Toward the end of the Ottoman period, Jewish settlement was renewed on the hill, when the Meyuhas family built their home there in 1873.
A few years later, in 1885, a large group of Yemenite Jews settled in the village of Kfar Hashiloah, which they established next to the Arab village of Silwan. Toward the end of the 19th century, when archaeological exploration in Jerusalem began, discoveries made on the hill led to its identification as the ancient core of Jerusalem. Scholars and archaeological expeditions from all over the world Flocked to the site, which soon became the most excavated mound in the history of archaeology.
1 Beit Hatzofeh Lookout
A View from the Beit Hatzofeh Lookout
Photo: Ron Peled
“Jerusalem, hills enfold it, and the Lord enfolds His people now and forever.” (Psalms 125:2)
From this vantage point you can see the mountains that surround the City of David on all sides. This is the view that inspired the words of the Psalmist: “Jerusalem, hills enfold it, and the Lord enfolds His people...”
Although the hill of the City of David is relatively low, in antiquity it towered over the deep valleys that surrounded it on almost every side. The eastern slope that descends to the Kidron Valley is still very steep, though much less so than in the past due to the accumulation of rubble
and debris. Across the valley, on the Mount of Olives, tombs from the city’s First Temple period cemetery can be seen; above them to the north are the myriads of tombstones from the hallowed Jewish cemetery.
Looking north you can see the Temple Mount or Mount Moriah, the traditional site of the Binding of Isaac. David’s son Solomon enlarged the city to include Mount Moriah, where he built the Temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).
In the Ophel area between the City of David and the Temple he built his royal palace. A wall connected the city to the new royal quarter, merging the two areas into one: “Jerusalem built up, a city knit together.” (Psalms 122:3)
In the eighth century BCE, the city expanded to the Western Hill, where Mount Zion and the Jewish and Armenian quarters stand today.
The Mishneh (2 Chronicles 34:22) and other neighborhoods built on the Western Hill contributed to the growth of the city, and by the end of the First Temple period, Jerusalem covered an area of approximately 700 dunams (about 177 acres) - a very large city for those days.
State of the Art 3D Presentation You are invited to visit this new and exciting 3-dimensional Presentation of the City of David through the generations, from the Times of the Bible to today.
Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office.
2 the Large Stone Structure: The Remains of David’s Palace?
“And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar-trees, and carpenters, and masons; and they built David a house.” (2 Samuel 5:11) In 2005, remains of what became known as the “Large Stone Structure” were discovered beneath ruins from the Byzantine and Second Temple periods.
Mainly visible in the excavation are the fieldstones that served as the foundation of this large structure; its upper stories did not survive. Excavations carried out in recent years under the direction of Eilat Mazar have unearthed numerous finds associated with the structure that indicate, in Mazar’s opinion, that it was constructed in the early 10th century BCE. Based on clues from the Bible regarding the location of David’s house and on stately architectural elements found in a nearby landslide, it was suggested that the Large Stone Structure was the palace of King David.
Gedaliah ben Pashur
Photo: Gabi Laron @ Dr. Eilat Mazar
Two bullae, (clay impressions used for sealing documents,) belonging to high-ranking officials from the court of King Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, were found in relation to the structure. The bullae bear the names of Jehucal son of Shelemiahu son of Shobai and Gedaliahu son of Pashhur, both fierce antagonists of the prophet Jeremiah. “Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malchiah, heard what Jeremiah was saying to all the people…Then the officials said to the king, ‘Let that man be put to death...” (Jeremiah 38:1,4)
3 The Royal Quarter (Area G)
“...the city shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the fortress in its proper place.” (Jeremiah 30:18)
Many of the homes of ancient Jerusalem were built on this slope. The nature of these dwellings and the remains found within them show that during the First Temple period this was a residential quarter inhabited by notables and royal officials. The Royal Quarter was destroyed, together with the rest of Jerusalem, by the Babylonians in the year 586 BCE. In the first part of the Second Temple period, a new city wall was built at the top of the excavation area seen here, leaving the ruins before you outside the city limits.
Ahiel House in the Royal Quaret - Area G
Photo: Ron Peled
A. The Stepped Stone Structure
“... David captured the stronghold of Zion; it is now the City of David.” (2 Samuel 5:7) The impressive stepped structure uncovered here served as part of a large retaining wall. Scholars are divided as to the date of its construction.
Some contend that it was built in the late 13th century or early 12th century, as part of the foundation of the Canaanite Fortress of Zion conquered by David. Others believe it supported David’s Palace, whose foundations may have been recently uncovered at the top of the hill.
B. The House of Ahiel “He (David) had houses made for himself in the City of David…” (1 Chronicles 15:1)
The name Ahiel, which appears on potsherds found in the ruins of this house, may be the name of its owner. The house is a typical First Temple period dwelling, built in a style known as the “four-room house.”
It consists of three rectangular rooms built around an open courtyard (the fourth room) where farm animals were kept and various household tasks were carried out. The roof beams were supported by columns, parts of which are seen here, and the house presumably had two stories.
To the right of the building is a stone toilet seat that was set over a pit.
The presence of a toilet near the dwelling reflects the elevated status of its residents.
C. The Burnt Room
“On the seventh day of the fifth month - that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon - Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards, an officer of the king of Babylon, came to
Jerusalem. He burned the House of the Lord, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down the house of every notable person.” (2 Kings 25:8–9)
The fire that consumed Jerusalem in 586 BCE did not spare the Royal Quarter. Among the ruins was the burnt room of a house that had collapsed in the fire; its floor was covered with a thick layer of ash. Under the piles of debris in the burnt room, the excavators found numerous arrowheads and the remains of a charred wooden piece of furniture carved with a stylized date-palm motif. The furniture, made of wood imported from Syria, is another sign of the elevated status of the inhabitants.
D. The House of the Bullae
“Thus said the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Take these documents, this deed of purchase, the sealed text and the open one, and put them into an earthen jar; so that they may last a
long time.” (Jeremiah 32:14)
Remains of an archive known as the “House of the Bullae” were unearthed at the lower section of the excavation site. The building that housed the archive was destroyed together with the entire quarter, and its contents, which included various official documents, went up in flames. However, the fire hardened and preserved the bullae, which are clay seal impressions that were attached to the documents. A hoard of 51 bullae was discovered by the archaeologist Yigal Shiloh during his excavations in the City of David (1978–1985). The seal impressions bear the names of people who lived in the First Temple period, some of whom are known from the Bible, such as Gemariahu son of Shaphan the scribe, an important official in the court of King Jehoiakim. (Jeremiah 36:10)
E. Nehemiah’s Wall
“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall. . .he mocked the Jews…‘Can they revive those stones out of the dust heaps, burned as they are?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, alongside him, said, ‘That stone wall they are building - if a fox climbed it he would breach it!’”(Nehemiah 3:33–35)
To the right (north) of the Stepped Stone Structure once stood a large stone tower (dismantled by the archaeologists), which was built in the mid-fifth century BCE, during the time of Nehemiah. The small section of wall that can be seen at the top of the Stepped Stone Structure also belongs to this period. Nehemiah is believed to have constructed the wall here at the top of the slope because piles of debris from the Babylonian destruction made it impossible to rebuild it along the original line. The Bible relates that the neighboring peoples who opposed the rebuilding of the wall harassed the builders, who were forced to take up arms to protect themselves: “doing work with one hand while the other held the weapon.” (Nehemiah 4:11)
4 Ancient Tombs Lookout
“Go in to see the steward, that Shebna, in charge of the palace: What have you here, and who have you here, That you have hewn out a tomb for yourself here? O you who have hewn your tomb on high; O you who have hollowed out for yourself an abode in the cliff!”(Isaiah 22:15–16)
The Kidron Valley is the boundary between the living, in the City of David, and the dead, in the necropolis on the Mount of Olives across from you. Between 1968 and 1970, archaeologists David Ussishkin and Gabriel Barkay surveyed approximately 50 burial caves in the village of Silwan that were part of the cemetery of Jerusalem during the First Temple period. The caves served as burial places for the wealthy families of the Kingdom of Judah.
In 1870, the French scholar Charles Clermont-Ganneau discovered an ancient Hebrew inscription that read “[...]iahu who is over the house” on the entrance of one of the burial caves. The full name may have been Shebna (Shebniahu?), an official who held the title of “over the house” in the court of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 22:15–16) and whom Isaiah castigated for hewing an opulent tomb for himself in Jerusalem.
The inscription contains a warning to would-be robbers that the tomb holds neither silver nor gold, but only the bones of the deceased.
The inscription also roundly curses robbers who would dare to open the tomb.
5 The Warren’s Shaft System
“And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land...David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David. And David said on that
day: ‘Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites, and getteth up to the gutter ...” (2 Samuel 5:6–8)
The Warren's Shaft System
Photo: Ron Peled
The Gihon Spring, which issues close to the foot of the eastern slope of the City of David, has always been Jerusalem’s main water source. Because it is so low down, however, the builders of the city had to leave it outside the city walls. In the autumn of 1867, British explorer Captain Charles Warren discovered an underground tunnel that burrowed beneath the city walls and led to a 13-meter deep shaft. For many years the shaft, known since as Warren’s Shaft, was considered to be the main component of the ancient city’s water system from which the inhabitants drew spring water when under siege.
Some scholars identified the shaft with the “gutter” ostensibly used by David’s soldiers, to infiltrate Jebus.
From 1995 on, following the excavations of Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron, remains have been uncovered that significantly change our understanding of the ancient water system: In the 18th century BCE, the Canaanite inhabitants of the city hewed a large pool in the rock near the Gihon Spring and surrounded it with fortifications. The inhabitants descended to the fortified pool, which was outside the city walls, through the secret tunnel discovered by Warren, to draw their water safely, protected by the massive fortifications. Only about 1,000 years later, in the eighth century BCE, was the floor level of the tunnel lowered for unknown reasons, revealing the existence of a natural (karstic) shaft.
It is now apparent that the shaft fulfilled no function in the Canaanite water system.
6 The Secret Tunnel
The tunnel through which you are about to walk was the secret underground passageway leading to the fortified pool. To overcome the steep descent in the first part of the tunnel, it is very likely that the ancient inhabitants installed wooden steps that did not survive. Oil lamps placed in niches in the tunnel walls lit their way down. The next part of the tunnel descended gradually, passing underneath the city walls.
7 The Canaanite Pool and the Fortifications of the Spring House A.
The Canaanite Pool The secret tunnel has led you to the surface of the eastern slope, outside the city walls. To the south a large pool is visible, cut into the bedrock. This pool was the heart of the Canaanite water system; it was from here that the Canaanites drew their water.
The pool may initially have been replenished with rainwater, but later one of its corners was deepened and it was linked to the Gihon Spring by means of rock-cut conduits. It is possible that the pool was the scene of the biblical story of the coronation of Solomon: “So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to
Gihon. And Zadok the priest took the horn of oil out of the Tent, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the ram’s horn; and all the people said: ‘Long live king Solomon” (1 Kings 1:38–39)
B. The Fortifications of the Pool Although the pool was outside the city walls, it was not without defenses. Based on the remains uncovered in the excavations, archaeologists draw a picture of massive fortifications surrounding the pool.
An example of these defenses can be seen above the northern side of the pool. It consists of two parallel walls that served as a guarded passage to the water.
C. The Spring Tower
The huge stones beneath the metal structure on which you are standing are the foundations of the Spring Tower, which surrounded the Gihon Spring. Each stone weighs several tons. The eastern wall of the tower is approximately seven meters wide; the tower measured some 230 square meters. These dimensions, together with the high level of technology necessary to create the water system, attest to the Canaanites’ sophistication in the field of engineering and construction.
D. David Faces the Walls of Jebus
"the Jebusites... spoke unto David, saying: 'Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither'; thinking: 'David can not come in hither.' . . .And David said on that day: 'Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites, and getteth up to the gutter..." (2 Samuel 5:6-8)
The fortifications seen here were built by the Canaanites in the 18th century BCE but they remained standing for many years. David may have stood before these very walls when he set out to conquer Jebus. The great difficulty in overcoming the city walls is illustrated in the biblical story of the “blind and the lame” whom the Jebusites stationed on the walls, perhaps to mock David’s intention to breach the fortifications.
8 The Gihon Spring
The Gihon is one of the largest springs in the mountain region. Until several decades ago, the karstic spring pulsated at regular intervals, accounting for its Hebrew name, which derives from the Hebrew word giha, meaning “bursting out.”
9 The Canaanite Tunnel
“The brook that flowed through the midst of the land...” (2 Chronicles 32:4)
From Jerusalem’s earliest days, the Canaanites had learned to channel the Gihon Spring waters to a storage pool south of the city. The water flowed through a channel, known today as the Canaanite Tunnel (also called the Shiloah Channel or Channel II), that ran along the eastern slope of the City of David for a distance of 400 meters.
On its way southward, some of the water from the channel was piped into the Canaanite pool through a short connecting conduit.
Farther along, the channel was used to irrigate farmland in the Kidron Valley. It is possible that the words of the prophet Isaiah, “the waters of Shiloah that go softly” (Isaiah 8:6), allude to the moderate slope of the Canaanite Tunnel and to the relatively gentle flow of the water.
The tunnel went out of use in the eighth century BCE when Hezekiah redirected the water into an alternative water system.
10 Hezekiah’s Tunnel
“So there was gathered much people together, and they stopped all the fountains, and the brook that flowed through the midst of the land, saying: ‘Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?’“ (2 Chronicles 32:4)
Fear that the abundant water flowing outside the city could be used by the Assyrian army gave King Hezekiah of Judah no rest. He therefore diverted the water of the Gihon to a tunnel cut through the belly of the rock.
The Entrance to The Siloam Tunnel
Photo: Ron Peled
Hezekiah’s tunnel led the water to the Shiloah Pool, built within the walls in the southern part of the city (2 Chronicles 32:30). The winding tunnel was hewn simultaneously from both sides for a length of approximately 533 meters. The height differential between the source of the spring and the end of the tunnel is a mere 30 centimeters (an average slope of 0.06 percent) - a truly amazing feat of engineering: “Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (2 Kings 20:20)
In 1880, an inscription in ancient Hebrew script was discovered about six meters from the end of the tunnel. It describes the last moments of the complex tunneling operation and the dramatic encounter between the two groups of diggers.
“While [the hewers wielded] the axe, each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be he[wn, there was hear]d a man’s voice call/ing to his fellow, for there was a
zdh (fissure?) in the rock on the right and [on the lef]t. And on the day of the / tunneling the hewers hacked each man towards his fellow, axe upon axe. And there flowed / the waters from
the source to the pool for two hundre[d and] a / thousand cubits. And a hu[nd]red cubits was the height of the rock above the head(s) of the hewers.”
The Shiloah (Siloam) Inscription Please note the safety instructions before you enter the tunnel.
11 The Walls of Ancient Jerusalem (Area E)
Seen here is a 90-meter section of the ancient First Temple city wall that was excavated by Yigal Shiloh between 1978-1985. The wall was built of large fieldstones on a natural rock scarp. A segment of the original Canaanite wall made of even bigger fieldstones can be seen in the northern part of this section.
12 The Weill Excavations (“The Tombs of the House of David”)
“And David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.” (1 Kings 2:10)
The inhabitants of Jerusalem preserved the memory of the tombs of the House of David, located in Jerusalem, for many generations. The impressive nature of the tombs earned them mention in the book of Nehemiah in its description of the city wall built by those who returned
from exile: “After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, unto the place over against the sepulchres of David, and unto the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty men” (Nehemiah 3:16).
Later the tombs are mentioned in the writings of Josephus Flavius and in rabbinic texts relating to the end of the Second Temple period. With the destruction of the Second Temple, their location was lost, and in the Middle Ages the tomb of King David was identified on Mount Zion. In 1913 the French-Jewish archaeologist Raymond Weill was commissioned by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to find the tombs of the House of David in the City of David. Weill uncovered several rock-cut tunnels and caves that he believed were the remains of the tombs, but the discovery of more lavish burial caves from the First Temple period since then have cast doubt on this theory.
A Synagogue from Temple Times: The Theodotos Inscription “Theodotos son of Vettenos, priest and synagogue leader, son of a synagogue leader, grandson of a synagogue leader, rebuilt this synagogue for the reading of the Law and the teaching of the commandments, and the hostelry, rooms and baths, for the lodging of those who have need from abroad. It was established by his forefathers, the elders and Simonides.”
This inscription, written in Greek, was discovered by Weill during his expedition in 1913-1914. Dating from the first century CE, it tells of the founding of a synagogue in Jerusalem by a man named Theodotos son of Vettenos, who served as the synagogue leader, as had his forefathers.
The inscription attests to the existence of synagogues in Jerusalem when the Second Temple stood, and to the function of the synagogue as a place for reading the Torah, teaching Jewish law and hosting pilgrims.
13 The Meyuhas House
Rahamim Nathan Meyuhas, scion of an old Sephardic family in Jerusalem, was a livestock butcher who lived in the Old City in the late 19th century.
In 1873, Meyuhas left the cramped but relatively safe confines of the Old City to build his house in the City of David. In a letter to his family he wrote: “We are establishing our home from now on in the village of Shiloah near the city. There we will live and there we will have light and breathe fresh air. We will no longer drink murky well water, and we will no longer eat purchased
vegetables, but rather our water will be living water from the spring, and with our own hands we will sow vegetables and will partake of them.”
14 The Three Valleys Lookout
“And the border went down to the uttermost part of the mountain that lieth before the Valley of the son of Hinnom, which is in the vale of Rephaim northward; and it went down to the Valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite southward, and went down to En-rogel.” (Joshua 18:16)
From this vantage point, you can see the place where the Central Valley and the Ben-Hinnom Valley converge with the Kidron Valley. There, in the fertile streambed of the Kidron, with its abundant water, were the king’s gardens, mentioned several times in the Bible.
The Village of Silwan and Kfar Hashiloah The Arab village of Silwan is built on the southern ridge of the Mount of Olives. Some of the homes of the Yemenite village of Kfar Hashiloah can still be seen among its houses.
In 1882, a group of immigrants from San’a, Yemen, left their homes and possessions behind and arrived in Jerusalem, imbued with the faith that redemption was at hand. But the Yemenite newcomers were not well received and they found themselves in terrible distress and
poverty. Finally, the Jewish community rallied to their aid and land was purchased for the establishment of Kfar Hashiloah, the first Yemenite settlement in the Land of Israel (1885). During the 1936-1939 riots, the Jews of Kfar Hashiloah were forced to abandon their homes. As
Silwan expanded in the 20th century, it swallowed up the houses of the Yemenite village.
15 The Shiloah (Siloam) Pool
“The other events of Hezekiah’s reign, and all his exploits, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought the water into the city, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Judah.” (2 Kings 20:20)
No conclusive remains of Hezekiah's Pool have been discovered, but it probably stood at the base of the Central Valley. Hezekiah enclosed the pool between the wall of the City of David and the new wall that he built around the Western Hill: “You made also a basin between the two walls for the water of the old pool.” (Isaiah 22:9)
In 2004, remains of a magnificent pool from the late Second Temple period were uncovered here – the Shiloah Pool. Steps descended from four sides to the floor of the pool. The steps are overlaid with stone, and underneath them are the remains of an earlier pool dating from the
Hasmonean era. The pool appears to have extended across the entire area of the present-day orchard, covering approximately three dunams (50 x 60 meters).
Texts from the Second Temple period mention the Shiloah Pool in the context of Temple ceremonies.: “How was the Water Libation performed? He [the priest] would fill a golden flask holding three logs [a liquid measure] with water from Shiloah…” (Mishnah Sukkah 4:9)
The special stepped structure of the pool has led excavators to posit that pilgrims used it as a ritual bath to purify themselves before ascending to the Temple.
16 The Promenade and the Western Stepped
Street: “Pilgrims’ Way” A flight of stairs led up from the pool to a large paved square. At the
southern end of the square (bordering on the pool), a roofed colonnade stood on a raised platform.
This created a pleasant promenade along which people could stroll and enjoy the view of the Shiloah Pool. A modern wall painting near the square depicts daily life at the pool in the late Second Temple period.
The father carrying his child on his shoulders in the painting illustrates a debate among the Sages as to the age at which pilgrimage became mandatory: “Who is deemed a child? Any that cannot ride on his father’s shoulders and go up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount. So say the School of Shammai. And the School of Hillel say: Any that cannot hold his father’s hand and go up from Jerusalem to the Temple Mount...” (Mishnah Hagigah 1:1)
A stepped street from the late Second Temple period was found on the northwestern side of the paved square. The street ascended from the pool northward along the Central (Tyropoeon) Valley. Scholars believe that this was the route taken by the pilgrims on their way toward the final destination of their journey, the Holy Temple.
The Eastern Stepped Street: The Last Refuge Another street from Second Temple times was discovered east of the square; both streets may actually have been part of the same thoroughfare, the southern end of which was very wide.
CIty of David excavations - Shiloah Herodian Pool
Photo: Ron Peled
The paving stones of the street were found in excellent condition, except for a number of places where they were broken; below them, you can see the large drainage channel that ran along the Tyropoeon Valley. On the floor of the channel, archaeologists found intact cooking pots, together with coins minted during the Great Revolt against Rome. Scholars believe that the last surviving Jewish rebels fled here from the Roman soldiers in 70 CE.
The pavement was apparently smashed by the Romans as they searched for people taking refuge in the drainage channel As Flavius Josephus described it: “Every man who showed himself was either killed or captured by the Romans, and then those in the sewers were ferreted out, the ground was torn up, and all who fell into their hands were killed.” (The Jewish War, 6, 9, 4)
17 The Byzantine Pool of Siloam
At the outlet of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, part of the Byzantine Pool of Siloam (the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew Shiloah) can be seen. This was a magnificent pool incorporated within the Siloam Church complex, which was apparently built by the Empress Eudocia in the middle of the fifth century. The Byzantines built the church and the pool to commemorate the Christian tradition of the miracle of the healing of a blind man. (John 9)