Other Archaeological Sites / The Neolithic of the Levant (500 Page Book Online)
Ancient Silwan (Shiloah) [Siloam] in Israel and The City of David
Selected Excerpt: SILOAM (Greek) SHILOAH (Hebrew) SHELAH SILOAH SILWAN
Only in the City of David is it possible to see continuous settlement from the Epipaleolithic period to the modern period because of the presence of only one source of water up to the Roman period (Page 31 (15).
At the beginning of the 19th century the hill had not yet been identified as the City of
David. There were only two sites known -- a spring and a pool. In 1867 Charles Warren
was the first excavator in Jerusalem during the Ottoman rule over Israel. He focused on
the Temple Mount Walls, the Temple Mount itself and the area around the Gihon Spring
(tunnels and a vertical shaft that was named for its discoverer) ... Kathleen Kenyon excavated during the time of the divided Jerusalem between
years 1961–1967 at the eastern slope in the City of David. She discovered there residential
buildings, fortress walls and the main street in the Tyropoeon Valley. David Ussiskhin
researched in Silwan village in 1968 after the reunification of Jerusalem. Yigal Shiloh continued
excavating the City of David between the years 1978-1985. Ronny Reich and Eli
Shukron excavated this area from 1995 to 2012. They uncovered the [actual] Shiloah Pool and
the Second Temple Period Road and they also worked under the Spring House
Why did the first settlement start here on the eastern slope of the mound?
The reason is very simple. In this area there was located only one source of water -- the
Gihon Spring. Thanks to a series of rock-cut tombs that were discovered on the hills
around Jerusalem [including Silwan] it is possible to imagine where the borders of the City [of David] were situated. Rock cut-tombs are a good indicator of the expansion of cities because
they are often outside city walls
Epipaleolithic -- Neolithic -- Chalcolithic Periods
The Chalcolithic period (6400–3600 BCE) has got a poor amount of any archaeological evidence. Nevertheless it is possible to see settlement activity in the area of the City of David where potsherds, flints, pottery and cup-marks in bedrock were found (ibid).
Early Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age I
Middle Bronze Age II
The remains of the Middle Bronze Age II bear witness to the transformation
of Jerusalem from the rural style to the urban planning settlement. Jerusalem
became the centre of emerging polity. The oldest
known walls have been uncovered at the eastern slope of the City of David -- halfway
up the slope. As we can see from the archaeological survey the wall was built in
the 19th century BCE. According to Kenyon the wall was part of a fortification and
included a tower
Two excavators, Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron, have improved the understanding of ancient Jerusalem (See A and B). They started working close to the Gihon Spring in 1995. They found a structure -- a massive “fortress” surrounding the source of water and the Rock-Cut Pool that was used as a huge reservoir. Kenyon and other previous researchers thought that the Gihon Spring was located unfortified outside of the city walls. Reich’s and Shukron’s excavations changed this view because they exposed a huge unknown tower (13.8 x 16.6 metres) -- the Spring Tower. Water flowed from the Gihon Spring through a rock-cut channel (channel II) down to the foot of the hill where the meeting point of the Kidron Valley and Tyropoeon Valley was. There was a small pool there (later known as Siloam Pool). The first part of this tunnel was cut from the surface and it was covered with large stones. The second part continued as a rock-cut tunnel. The second way that water flowed from the Gihon Spring was the short rock-cut tunnel to the bottom of the fortified Rock-Cut Pool (10 x 15 metres) that was dug into the hard rock. The maximum depth of the pool is 14 metres. Water was conducted with another shorter tunnel to the bottom of the pool. The pottery shards associated with the floor of the reservoir and parts of the fortification of the pool were dated to the period of the Middle Bronze Age II. This was the first phase in which a water system was built and used. The pool was also protected by a tower -- the Pool Tower. On the northern part of the pool were found the remains of two massive walls that were included in the system of the tower (Page 36-7 ibid).
Late Bronze Age
Iron Age I
The Iron Age I period is also connected with Joshua’s campaign to conquer Canaan in the time of the biblical Judges. Some of the cities had already ceased to exist before this time because most of the Canaanite cities were destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age (for example Arad -- Jericho -- Ai). This means that Joshua could not have captured Canaanite cities where somebody had not been living. But in Jerusalem it was a different story. According to the Book of Chronicles, before David’s conquest Jerusalem was a city of the Jebusites (Jebus). The archaeological records include nothing about this Canaanite tribe therefore it still uses the term “Canaanites” (ibid).
The year of 1200 BCE is the date when something changed. The Sea Peoples invaded Canaan and Egypt lost its influence there. Because most of the Canaanite cities were destroyed and abandoned the Canaanite territory was empty and ready for “new” inhabitants. We have no archaeological or historical evidence that Jerusalem was also abandoned in the end of the Late Bronze Age. It is assumed that Jerusalem was settled continuously. Jerusalem used the same building elements as in the Bronze Age period (ibid).
Iron Age II period (1000–586 BCE)
The City of David -- Area G
During Kenyon’s excavations on the Stepped Stone Structure in area G she uncovered part of the house from the Iron Age II (the Burnt Room). During the excavations in the years 1978–1982 there was discovered a fragment of a cultic stand together with the pottery. A similar find was uncovered at Megiddo and Tanach (10th century BCE). The figurine on the cultic stand has the same type of hair dress as is known from the Sea People reliefs (Medinet Habu in Egypt) and from clay anthropoid coffins (Beth Shean). Another artefact from area G is the bronze fist that is also known from another site of Canaan from the Late Bronze Age (10th century BCE). Yigal Shiloh completed the excavation of the House of Ahiel, now dated to the end of the Iron Age II. This house against the Stepped Stone Structure is typical of Iron Age II architecture -- a Four-Room House. In one of these rooms thirty-seven storage jars were discovered. On some of the jars there were rosette impressions on the handles from the end of the Iron Age. In 1985 50 stamped bullae were found inside another building located close to the House of Ahiel. The stamps included the official Judean names from the 7th century BCE. They were probably parts of papyrus and when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylonians the fire preserved the clay bullae and the organic papyrus burnt. The bullae indicate the presence of administration in this House of Bullae (or maybe in the whole quarter). The House of Bullae was a complex of buildings on the lower terrace. For this reason this area is marked as the Royal Quarter. According to Yair Shohan this house was used for storing documents (Pages 45-6 ibid).
Excavations at the City of David: Inscriptions (Volume 6)
The House of Ahiel was built into the Stepped
Stone Structure and that opened questions of dating this stone complex. Shiloh uncovered
thin terrace walls under the Stepped Stone Structure and he dated them to the end
of the Late Bronze Age. So it means that the Stepped Stone Structure is sandwiched
between these thin terrace walls and the Iron Age II houses
Post Script:The Babylonians, headed by Nebuchadnezzar, conquered the coastal cities in 604 BC (2 Kings 24:7) and later destroyed Judea and Jerusalem in 587. The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and some of the population were exiled (16).
The village of Silwan was built atop and around the necropolis of the Biblical kingdom. The ancient cemetery is an archaeological site of major significance. It contains fifty rock-cut tombs of distinguished calibre, assumed to be the burial places of the highest-ranking officials of the Judean Kingdom. Tomb inscriptions are in Hebrew. The most famous of the ancient rock-cut tombs in Silwan is the one known as the Tomb of Pharaoh's daughter (2).
Silwan Necropolis: Its tombs were cut between the 9th and 7th centuries BCE. It is situated on the rocky eastern slope of the Kidron Valley facing the oldest part of Jerusalem. The Arab village of Silwan was later built atop the necropolis. Although the existence of ancient tombs in the village of Silwan had been known since the 19th century the first careful survey was not performed until 1968. (6).
Gihon Spring: The Gihon Spring or Fountain of the Virgin [From the Hebrew Giha which means "gushing forth"] in the Kidron Valley was the main source of water for the Pool of Siloam in the City of David, the original site of Jerusalem. It was one of the world's major intermittent springs and a reliable water source that made human settlement possible in ancient Jerusalem. The spring was not only used for drinking water but also initially for irrigation of gardens in the adjacent Kidron Valley which provided a food source for the ancient settlement. The spring rises in a cave 20 feet by 7. Being intermittent it required the excavation of cisterns which stored the large amount of water needed for the town when the spring was not flowing (5).
The Middle Bronze Age Channel (Canaanite): a fairly straight channel dating from the Middle Bronze Age cut 20 feet into the ground and then covered with slabs (which themselves were then hidden by foliage). This led from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam and was an aqueduct (ibid).
Siloam Tunnel: a winding tunnel carved into the rock leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam. According to the Bible King Hezekiah prepared Jerusalem for an impending siege by the Assyrians by "blocking the source of the waters of the upper Gihon and leading them straight down on the west to the City of David" (8).
Pool of Siloam: The Pool of Siloam is a rock-cut pool on the southern slope of the City of David located outside the walls of the Old City to the southeast. The pool was fed by the waters of the Gihon Spring, carried there by two aqueducts. An even more ancient pool (Upper Pool) once existed near the Gihon Spring but was no longer used after King Hezekiah redirected the waters to the western side of the city (9).
To better understand the Gihon Spring and the aqueducts --- tunnels --- pools associated with it go to the excellent Jerusalem Archaeological Park produced by the Israel Antiquities Authority ---> Water systems > Interactive Map
Traditionally the Christian site of the Siloam Pool was the pool and church that were built by the Byzantine empress Eudocia (circa 400–460 AD) to commemorate the miracle recounted in the New Testament. However the exact location of the original pool as it existed during the time of Jesus remained a mystery until June 2004 when the stepped remains of the ancient Siloam Pool were uncovered near the City of David. According to the Gospel of John it was at this sacred Christian site that Jesus healed the blind man. The monumental pool from the Second Temple period was 225 feet long and had a trapezoidal shape (10).
The south-east spur of ancient Jerusalem lies just outside the Ottoman (Ruled 1517–1917) walls [built 1537-41] of the Old City south of the Temple Mount (1). From 1541 until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood Mishkenot Sha'ananim was established, the walled area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem (4).
Unnamed in most nineteenth century maps, the area outside the walls was partly cultivated by residents of the village of Silwan, which lay across the Wadi (channel that is dry except in the rainy season) Sitti Maryam (Biblical Kidron Valley) on the south-west slope of the Mount of Olives (1).
The central point of reference for the Kidron Valley is its confluence of Jerusalem’s richest concentration of rock-hewn tombs. This area, located on the periphery of the village Silwan, was one of the main burial grounds of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period. Several of these tombs were also used later in time, either for burial or as shelters for hermits and monks of the large monastic communities which inhabited the Kidron Valley (3).
The City of David (now referred to as Wadi Hilweh), an area of Silwan close to the southern wall of the Old City, has been a focus of Jewish settlement since Israel gained control over East Jerusalem in 1967 (2).
During the twentieth century Silwani settlement on the hill [opposite] gradually expanded; concomitantly archaeological investigation begun in the last decades of the nineteenth century by the Palestine Exploration Fund was pursued with increasing vigour. It thus transpired that even as the modern Silwani outlier Wadi Hilweh became more densely settled, archaeology began to identify ever more significant remains of Jerusalem’s earliest history on the self-same spot. Whereas in early modern times only the Fountain of the Virgin (Ain [fountain] Umm el-Daraj) or the Waters of Siloam (Ain [spring] Silwan) possessed any historical or religious significance, archaeological discoveries added new locales that could be associated with biblical events (1).
The village of Silwan was described in the 19th century by travellers to the Holy Land. It was a wretched and relatively small village whose houses incorporated the burial caves or were built next to them. The houses stood on cliffs and to passers-by in the valley they were reminiscent of birds’ nests. The caves served for human habitation as well as for housing sheep, goats and cattle and for storage. All the travellers mention the dirty conditions of the village. Geikie records: “Everything is filthy in the extreme, even for the East” (11).
(12) The Holy Land and the Bible by John Cunningham Geike (1888)
Opposite Ophel (the elevated area of the extended City of David) perched on a very steep and slippery scarp cut in the face of the hill lies the village of Silwan or Siloam. There could hardly be a better
defence than its difficult approach which must at all times have made
it a striking feature in the valley. To this steep face of rock the villagers
may be heard still giving the name Zehweileh or "the Slippery Place". I could not pretend to descend it and was
glad to take an easier road down to the valley after having looked into
the village, which is a curious place, part of the inhabitants living in
large caves and tombs of great antiquity (Page 347-8 in 12).
There are some houses but they are of the rudest [nature] : generally they are mere hovels built at the mouths of
tombs that form part of the ancient cemetery of the Jews or possibly of a still
more ancient burial-place, of which so
many remains are seen in the Valley of Hinnom (ibid).
Here truly one is face to face with antiquity.
Everything is filthy in the extreme, even for the East, and the villagers, as becomes
such a place, have a bad name for dishonesty. About a hundred of them originally came from Dhiban (Biblical Dibon) in Transjordan and form a distinct body; apparently they were the descendants of a colony of Moabites sent from there (ibid).
Opposite Ophel (the elevated area of the extended City of David) perched on a very steep and slippery scarp cut in the face of the hill lies the village of Silwan or Siloam. There could hardly be a better defence than its difficult approach which must at all times have made it a striking feature in the valley. To this steep face of rock the villagers may be heard still giving the name Zehweileh or "the Slippery Place". I could not pretend to descend it and was glad to take an easier road down to the valley after having looked into the village, which is a curious place, part of the inhabitants living in large caves and tombs of great antiquity (Page 347-8 in 12).
There are some houses but they are of the rudest [nature] : generally they are mere hovels built at the mouths of tombs that form part of the ancient cemetery of the Jews or possibly of a still more ancient burial-place, of which so many remains are seen in the Valley of Hinnom (ibid).
Here truly one is face to face with antiquity. Everything is filthy in the extreme, even for the East, and the villagers, as becomes such a place, have a bad name for dishonesty. About a hundred of them originally came from Dhiban (Biblical Dibon) in Transjordan and form a distinct body; apparently they were the descendants of a colony of Moabites sent from there (ibid).
Charles Wilson notes: “The houses and the streets of Siloam, if such they may be called, are filthy in the extreme and the villagers are notorious thieves, sometimes not over-courteous to visitors” (Page 94 13). The inhabitants gained their livelihood mainly from growing vegetables in the fields below the village and from selling in Jerusalem water which they brought in goatskins from Bir Ayub (En Rogel) and the Siloam pool. The villagers were Moslem (11).
The inhabitants of Silwan had a very bad name in Jerusalem. Charles Warren, the famous explorer of Jerusalem, wrote: “The people of Siloam are a lawless set credited with being the most unscrupulous ruffians in Palestine” (Page 149 14).
(1) Towards an Inclusive Archaeology in Jerusalem: The Case of Silwan
(2) Silwan (Wikipedia)
(3) Kidron Valley (Wikipedia)
(4) Old City (Jerusalem) (Wikipedia)
(5) Gihon Spring (Wikipedia)
(6) Silwan Necropolis (Wikipedia)
(7) Golden Jerusalem by Menashe Har-El (2004)
(8) Siloam Tunnel (Wikipedia)
(9) Pool of Siloam (Wikipedia)
(10) The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man ( Biblical Archaeology Society) May 2011
(11) The Village of Silwan: The Necropolois from the Period of the Judean Kingdom by David Ussishkin (1993)
(12) The Holy Land and the Bible by John Cunningham Geike (1888)
(13) Picturesque Palestine, Sinai, and Egypt by Charles William Wilson (1880)
(14) Underground Jerusalem: an account of some of the principal difficulties encountered in its exploration and the results obtained by Charles Warren (1876)
(15) Tel Jerusalem: The Place Where It All Began (Archaeological Remains From the Epipaleolithic Period to the Iron Age II Period) by David Rafael Moulis (PDF) 6.1 MB
(16) City of David BibleWalks.com updated on Nov 22, 2014
From Shiloah to Silwan by Raphael Greenberg and Yonathan Mizrachi
The Shiloah Pool and the Second Temple Road (The City of David and Ir David Foundation)
Jerusalem in Bible Times: III The Springs and Pools of Ancient Jerusalem