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Monday, May 28, 2018

A Shaft Tomb or Deep Well Preceded Jerusalem's Upper Gihon Pool


Honed bedrock entry to Shaft Tomb
Shaft tombs were commonly used during the Middle Bronze Age to bury the dead, including in and around Jerusalem. They were generally constructed as a vertical shaft, cut into bedrock leading to a chamber at the bottom of the shaft where bones and valuable possessions of individuals or family members were laid to rest. Important people were buried in prominent locations where they had once lived, the scale of their burial commensurate.



Cylindrical Shaft Tomb
Prayer at the graveside of those who had progressed to afterlife may have been practiced similar to Jewish  religion and tradition in Israel today. Cemeteries from this period are found scattered through Israel like the one in Michmash from the Middle Bronze age. Generally the tombs were constructed cylindrical, but sometimes rectangular or irregular shapes were built. Over extended periods of tens or hundreds of years populations at specific locations waxed and waned. Because of famine, pestilence, disease or wars shaft-tombs were often abandoned, which exposed the contents to vandalism.

Once tombs had been vandalized and emptied and with the passage of time as local inhabitants lost touch with lore of the deceased, they may have been used for other purposes. One such example could be the Round Chamber (named by lead archaeologist Ronny Reich) of the Upper Gihon Pool at the City of David, Jerusalem.

Upper Gihon Pool and Round Chamber in front of image (camera facing south)
The Upper Gihon Pool is immediately south of  the Gihon Spring, from where it once received its water. The eastern rock-cut face, which is substantially lower than the other faces marked the pools maximum potential water line.  Today the sunken walkway sits in the pool immediately adjacent (south) of the Round Chamber resembling the remnant of a cylindrical shaft.  The top of the Round Chamber appears roughly honed suggesting its original deep cylindrical shaft preceded cutting rock away from it to form the large cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool. Since the lower height of the eastern face is the maximum water line, it can be concluded most of the cavity area was quarried for some other purpose.

Southern face of rock cut Upper Gihon Pool (camera facing south-east)
The southern rock cut face (seen above) of the Upper Gihon Pool expansion follows the original slope of the mountain as it falls east toward the Kidron valley.  The cavity bedrock once filled the entire pool area. The Shaft tomb or deep cylindrical well of the Round Chamber was first cut from untouched bedrock. Later more rock was cut and removed to form the present cavity of the Upper Gihon Pool.

Yardstick in Round Chamber expanded in the direction of camera facing north-east
The yardstick in the image above illustrates the height from the bottom of the Round Chamber to the top of the northern rock cut face. The north-eastern Tunnel III (considered to be Middle Bronze Age) is visible and leads directly to the Gihon Spring. It is possible it once formed a Shaft Tomb burial chamber prior to widening the south-east side of the Round Chamber and the addition of steps into the pool (as can be seen in the map below).

Round Chamber - Shaft Tomb and east facing burial chamber

Entrance to the northern Tunnel IV in the image (bellow) is considered an Iron Age addition and may have been part of Iron Age efforts to dam water for storage within a few hundred years of the construction of the Siloam (Hezekiah) Tunnel.

View north-east to the expanded corner of the Round Chamber
In a previous post I identified the "other purpose" of the quarrying effort in the Upper Gihon Pool was entirely political. Specifically to stop Israel's access and to obfuscate the Middle Bronze Age, holy temple complex on the high, east facing ridge facing east, looking over the Upper Gihon Pool.