BAR 20:04, Jul/Aug 1994
Jerusalems Underground Water Systems
How They Met: Geology Solves Long-Standing Mystery of Hezekiahs Tunnelers
Waterworks underlying the City of David, the oldest inhabited part of Jerusalem, have two aspects that have long puzzled Biblical scholars and archaeologists. The first is whether Davids general, Joab, captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites by entering the city through an underground passage, or perhaps a water system, that led from a spring outside the city wall to a point inside.
The second concerns the famous tunnel dug by King Hezekiah in the late eighth century B.C.E. to bring water into the city in preparation for an imminent siege by the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib, as recorded in the Bible. How did the two teams of tunnelers digging from opposite ends manage to meet, as the famous Siloam Inscription says they did? What accounts for the serpentine path of the 1,748-foot tunnel? And how did the tunnelers get enough air to breathe, especially since they had to use oil-burning lamps to see what they were doing?