Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jerusalem's ancient escape tunnel

Achaeologists have unearthed a clandestine escape tunnel in Jerusalem, which led off from an ancient Roman drainage system. The Historian Josephus Flavius recounted how the Jews had hidden underground and ultimately slipped out the tunnel's southern exit while Roman conquerors ransacked the city over their heads during the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Now
they have found the very place.
Scholars Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa and Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority described today how they stumbled upon the mammoth structure, dating from King Herod's reign, while searching for remains of the main road. Big blocks of treated stones lined this 2000 year old tunnel, and several manholes and original plasterwork are still in place along the stretch which has been cleared of rubble.

"It was a place where people hid and fled to from burning, destroyed Jerusalem," Shukron said.

Tens of thousands of people lived in Jerusalem at the time, but it is not clear how many used the channel to escape, he said.

About 100 yards of the channel have been uncovered so far. Reich estimates its total length will reach more than a half-mile, stretching north from the Shiloah Pool at Jerusalem's southern end to the disputed holy shrine known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. The shrine is the site of the two biblical Jewish temples.

Archeologists think the tunnel leads to the Kidron River, which empties into the Dead Sea.

The Shiloah pool, one end of the newly-discovered tunnel, is shown above and at right
Digging beneath old Jerusalem's stones inevitably incites controversy. As the excavation approaches the zones sacred to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, politics and religion are apt to trump science. Israelity bites.


Sarah Epstein said...

This is fascinating. One thing worth mentioning is that the escape tunnel discovery strikingly confirms University of Chicago historian Norman Golb's theory, now supported by an entire series of Israeli archaeologists, that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the remains of Jerusalem libraries, smuggled out of the city for hiding during the Roman siege of 70 A.D. In his books and articles, Golb has specifically argued that Jews used tunnels to get the scrolls out and took them down to the Dead Sea region through the Kidron valley.

This also puts a spotlight on a current controversy involving a major exhibition of the Scrolls taking place in San Diego. Pursuant to an agreement reached with Christian evangelist "bible scholars," the San Diego Natural History Museum has excluded Golb and all of the other researchers who have rejected the old "Qumran-Essene" theory of scroll origins from participating in its lecture series and, in the exhibit itself, has intentionally misinformed the public concerning the grounds supporting the Jerusalem theory.

For further information, see the posting entitled "Chronology of Dead Sea Scrolls controversy in San Diego" on Wordpress, and the articles by Charles Gadda on the Nowpublic site, in particular the one entitled "Christian fundamentalism and the Dead Sea Scrolls in San Diego."

Follow Gadda's links for his other articles too, they expose a truly outrageous scandal.

Paul Kessler said...

Golb has posted an article about this on the Oriental Institute website, with a list of passages from Josephus. Apparently, not only did the archaeologists blunder in stating that Josephus described refugees hiding in this particular tunnel, but they also were not aware that several similarly gigantic tunnels were unearthed in Jerusalem during the 19th century (Golb reproduces four illustrations from a book published in 1876 entitled Underground Jerusalem). It's really somewhat amazing how the public always ends up being misinformed by amateurishly erroneous declarations coming from archaeologists who simply cannot get their act together and do their homework. The link to Golb's article is: