A mystery in the City of David: What were the mysterious canal facilities from the time of the kings of Judah used for?
The carved canal facilities discovered in the City of David National Park were in use about 2800 years ago. Police investigators were mobilized in order to resolve the mystery, but in the meantime - to no avail.
Unique and large-scale production facilities carved into the rock is igniting the imagination of researchers, who have so far been unable to decipher their purpose and solve the mystery of what they were used for. The facilities, which date back to the 9th century BCE (about 2800 years ago), were uncovered in the excavations of the Givati Parking Lot managed by the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University in the City of David National Park, funded by the Ir David Foundation.
The uniqueness and location of the facilities – near the temple and the palace of the kings – implies that their products were part of the economy of the important institutions, but it is not yet clear what exactly they were used for.
So far, two facilities have been discovered during the excavation, at a distance of about 10 meters apart, and it is possible that they belonged to one large facility. The facilities are special in that they are not known anywhere else in Israel.
The first facility was discovered at the northeastern end of the Givati Parking Lot, and it includes a series of at least nine channels smoothed with careful finishing. On the rock cliff which borders the facility to the south, you can see seven gutters. The gutters led liquids from the top of the block of rock, which was used as an activity area, to the canal facility.
Even the crime scene investigators were not able to decipher it.
Dr. Yiftach Shalev, a senior researcher at the Antiquities Authority, says: “We looked at the facility and realized that we had stumbled upon something unique, but since we had never seen a similar facility in Israel, we did not know how to interpret it. Its date was also unclear. We have brought a number of experts to the area, who will check whether there are any remains in the ground or rock that are not visible to the naked eye, and who will be able to help us understand what flowed or stood in the canals. We have asked that it be checked whether there are any organic remains or traces of blood, and for that we even used the police forensics unit and its contacts with investigators around the world, but so far it has been to no avail.”
“The mystery only continued to develop when we found the second facility to the south,” says Prof. Yuval Gadot from the Department of Archeology at Tel Aviv University. “This facility consists of at least five canals that transport liquids. Despite some differences in the way the canals were carved and designed, it is clear that the second facility is very similar to the first,” adds Gadot.
“This time, we were also able to date when the facility stopped being used; it was towards the end of the ninth century BCE, the days of Kings Jehoash and Amaziah. As we said, we assume that the facilities may have been used together, and that they were carved several decades earlier.”
According to Prof. Gadot, “This is a period in which we know that Jerusalem extended over an area that included the extension of the City of David, and the Temple Mount that served as the heart of the city. The central location of the canal facilities near the important parts of the city indicates that the product produced with the canals was connected with the serving the temple or the palace. It should be remembered that a ritual activity includes the bringing of agricultural produce from both animals and plants to the temple; the visitors to the temple would often take products back with them that carried the sanctity of the place.”
What was the product?
“Since the canals do not lead to a large drainage basin and the direction of their flow changes, it is possible that the canals, at least in the northern facility, were used for soaking products – and not for draining liquids,” adds Dr. Shalev.
“The production of threads from flax, for example, requires soaking of the flax for an extended period of time in order to soften it. Another possibility is that the trenches contained dates that were left to heat in the sunlight to produce silan (date honey), as in facilities of a similar shape that were discovered in distant places such as Oman, Bahrain and Iran.”
Dr. Shalev points out that “we will take additional samples of soil from the facilities in the near future, and we will try – once again – to identify ingredients in it that can help us solve the mystery: what was the product that was important to the economy of the city, the temple or the palace”.
As part of the 24th City of David Research Conference to be held in the City of David National Park next week, it will be possible to visit the excavation area and form an impression of the mysterious facilities.
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