Last month we reported on the massive network of underground tunnels which are scattered throughout Europe and explored myths and legends from around the world that present stories of mysterious subterranean cities and tunnels. We also wrote about the many places in which incredible discoveries of underground networks have been uncovered. Now, in another remarkable finding, archaeologists have found a system of subterranean caverns under Jerusalem which date back to at least the First Temple period between 10 th and 6 th centuries BC.
Archaeologists were digging in the ancient Ophel area near Temple Mount when they discovered a cave filled with loads of dirt and rock. After removing piles of rubble, they were astounded to find that the cave appeared to link to a system of tunnels, which were clearly man-made – the walls were layered in plaster, chisel marks could still be seen carved into the rock, and holes where candles would have been replaced, still showing burn marks on the rock, had remained intact.
The cave also appeared to be linked to a structure featuring water channels dating to the First Temple period, which suggest that at one point in time, the tunnels may have formed part of an ancient water cistern which would have served Jerusalem’s royalty for collecting and storing water. But that was not all it was used for.
Evidence of use as a passageway for people associated with the period of time just following Herod the Great was also found. Archaeologists discovered that some walls had been constructed after the cistern had lost its use for water and were high enough and large enough to move individuals from one location to another.
Historians have suggested that these tunnels are what were referred to by the Jewish historian Josephus in his writing, The Jewish War, where he spoke of the creation of subterranean caverns used by the inhabitants of the city to hide or escape from Roman soldiers as the city was besieged during the First Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. Sadly, their efforts were in vain as they were eventually discovered by their Roman pursuers and captured.
The Ophel excavation work continues to try to build a more accurate picture of the history and purpose of the mysterious underground network and the secrets that lie hidden in the cold, dark walls that lie below the ancient city of Jerusalem.