As a lecturer and a guide I often take groups to participate in a dig or visit an archaeological site. In July 1997, while giving a summer course on the
Archaeology of Jerusalem to overseas students at the Hebrew University, I took them to see the Gihon spring in the City of David – the only water source of Jerusalemduring the First Temple period (c. 1000-586 BCE).
Due to reconstruction plans the Israel Antiquities Authority is digging there currently and rumor was that they found some new important evidence for the history of the site. Talking on the phone with the co-director of the excavation at the site, Eli Shukrun, the night prior to the visit, he promised me some archaeological surprises.
It has long been known that three hidden passages began from the Gihon spring to bring the water safely into Jerusalem.
One was “Warren’s Shaft”, first identified by Charles Warren in 1867. Some have attributed this shaft as the “water shaft” which David climbed up to conquer the city by surprise (an archetype to the story of conquering Troy), as described in 2 Samuel 5:8: “On that day David said, ‘Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those lame and blind who are David’s enemies”‘.
The second tunnel is named the “Siloam Tunnel” (Isaiah 8:6) and is interpreted as an irrigation system for the gardens along the Kidron valley.
The third tunnel is named “Hezekiahs’ tunnel” and is attributed to one of Hezekiahs’ construction projects in Jerusalem during his reign (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:2-4, 30). An inscription found at the end of the tunnel by local children in the 19th century confirmed the dating of this tunnel.
The new expedition has found evidence they claim will cause scholars to revise their identification, or as Eli stated, ‘The Biblical archaeology textbooks will all have to be updated.
The famous “Warren’s shaft” for one, should be dated according to clear archaeological evidence to the 7th century BC – 400 years after David allegedly sneaked into the city.
On the other hand Eli pointed to a new, previously unknown, second shaft! This shaft, though not as deep and as narrow as “Warren’s Shaft”, may be the shaft David’s men climbed through! One of the students joked that this shaft should be named “Shukrun’s Shaft.” Eli smiled..
Secondly the excavators now think that the “Siloam Tunnel” is actually a safety tunnel, of the same nature as “Hezekiah’s Tunnel” and was never used for irrigation. Therefore it is highly probable that the open channel along the western slope is the real “Siloam Tunnel”. To clarify the date of the “Siloam tunnel” the excavators are clearing the whole route of the tunnel, although so far they have only managed to clear only about 50 meters. Work is especially slow because of the need to continuously extend the human chain required to carry the buckets.
Thirdly, the excavators revealed a hidden passage next to the gate above the spring – another safe access to the valuable at times of trouble.
Yet the most dazzling find, was near the ancient gate of the city located above the Gihon spring. While exposing part of the gate, Eli showed me that they had revealed a big flat slab of stone abutting the gate. After pouring some water on it, we could clearly read what looks like three letters in paleo-Hebrew that gave us a name of a Biblical prophet!
I was amazed, for here I could read graffiti in my own language, left at the site 2600 Years ago. And the person is well known from the book of Kings!.
I wish I could share with you all of the details, but since it is unethical to publish somebody else’s finds prior to his own formal initial publication, I am obliged to wait patiently for Eli and his team to publish this find. Meanwhile, I invite you to suggest the name mentioned in front of the city gate, and after the expedition has published its report I will be able to confirm your suggestion.