Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Third Reich: MLK Garden & MLK Limestone

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent Tue 11/16/2004 8:55 PM.]

Monday night I attended a lecture by Dr. Ronny Reich, who has been excavating in Jerusalem continuously since 1969. No mention was made of LMLK stamps, but read on & you will see some interesting things related to the same time/place. He focused on 3 specific areas he's been working on since 1995, which he referred to as chapters of his presentation.

The first chapter dealt with the Canaanite construction of giant towers at the Gihon spring. He showed us Warren's Shaft & explained how Charles Warren halted his 19th-century excavation prematurely, which has misled some to speculate on the use of Warren's shaft to draw water from the spring. In recent years Reich's team has uncovered a complex network of passages & 2 large underground pools where Canaanites/Jebusites would have easily been able to acquire water without the need for lowering buckets down Warren's Shaft via ropes.

The second subject briefly covered the new portion of a wall at the foot of the slope in the Kidron Valley below the famous Stepped-Stone Structure. A photo of it appears on p. 31 in the new issue of BAR, v30 #6; although the author, Jane Cahill, only makes a brief reference to it on p. 62. It was presumably built by King Hezekiah during his expansion of the city, so after the lecture I asked Dr. Reich if he could speculate on the chronological relationship of this wall (admittedly a small expansion) to the Broad Wall discovered by Avigad much farther to the west of the Temple Mount. He said it could not be determined at this time whether these walls were built at the same time, or whether either one was built at the very beginning of Hezekiah's reign, or before/after the fall of Samaria (due to immigration of northern refugees), or after the Assyrian attack on Jerusalem (due to immigration of Shephelah refugees), but he did feel strongly that the small expansion to the east preceded the larger expansion to the west. These 2 almost-parallel walls may possibly be the area referenced by Isaiah (22:11): "Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool..." Furthermore, they reminded me of the 2-wall system at Jericho.

The third topic was the most exciting & most recent: his discovery of the original Pool of Siloam! As you may know, Hezekiah's Tunnel exits into a small pool constructed during the Byzantine era (revealed by the architecture of the Byzantine church remnants over it). Archaeologists have been sure that the pool mentioned in Nehemiah 3:15 ("the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden") was somewhere in this area but have never found conclusive proof of it. Back in June a sewer line began exhibiting problems in the area just to the east of the Byzantine pool. You can see the area (a narrow roadway running east/west) clearly in the photo on p. 21 of BAR approximately 3 inches up from the bottom of the page, about 3" to 4" over the from left side of the page (4" to 5" from the right side); it's just north of that little forest. During the repair of the sewer line, construction equipment hit the remnants of an ancient wall, so Dr. Reich's team began excavating it carefully. He showed us photos of the progress that's taken place as recently as last week, & the remnant of the wall has turned into a magnificent series of steps leading down to the famous pool! His expertise with ritual baths leads him to believe it served this function due to some of the steps being plastered. He gave 3 pertinent references in the Mishnah: Sukkah 4:9, Para 3:2, & Miqwa'ot 1:8.

As of right now, that entire roadway you see in the BAR photo has been excavated & represents the length of one side of the pool, which would have easily accommodated hundreds of people (assuming they could access all 4 sides). The archaeological progress toward the south going into the little forest has been halted due to that property being owned by a Greek Orthodox church (negotiations for a continuance are underway). However, he showed us an artist's reconstruction of what the original pool may have looked like (imagine extending the lower-left area of the drawing on p. 22 of BAR), & it is quite an impressive structure. He noted that those trees are just about the lowest geographic point in the area, & this may have been the area known as the King's Garden (GNYEMLK) since it would have a continuous supply of fresh water. There is little doubt now that this is the pool Jesus commanded the blind man to wash in (John 9:7). He also pointed out that the Canaanite conduit known as Channel II (the one King Hezekiah superceded with his tunnel described by Cahill on p. 28) probably emptied into this same area. One more interesting footnote was that one of the 19th-century archaeologists must have originally uncovered part of the steps & not thought much of the discovery because they refilled their hole but noted steps in one of their sketches of the territory.

For additional details about the original discovery, here's the 6-24-2004 edition of the Jerusalem Post: [online article no longer available]

Here's a page where you can see 3 photos from October (click the links on the left menu for photos 2 & 3):,2,6,19,97&img=IJOTHT21

G.M. Grena

P.S. I also learned that the upper portion of limestone in the Gihon Spring complex is MLK ("royal") limestone! [online article no longer available]

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