High-tech meets muscle: Searching for an ancient water system

After excavating in Israel for 7 years in a row, I observed something new this week. A group of specialists literally hammered the ground, looking for an ancient underground water tunnel in the biblical city of Lachish.

Water sources for many Ancient Near Eastern cities were located outside the city walls, leaving populations vulnerable during a siege. A water system would permit residents to safely access the water from inside the city. In ancient Canaan we have examples of underground water systems in Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer, Jerusalem, Beersheba, and Gibeon, among other places. Will Lachish soon join this list?

At Lachish, surveys with Ground Penetrating Radar and other high tech methods have revealed a possible underground tunnel near our excavation area. A team of specialists came out this week to conduct a geophysical survey that should confirm whether such a tunnel exists.


Specialists at Lachish laid out special sensors in a line along the area to be surveyed. (Photo by Luke Chandler)


These men pounded a sledgehammer to a metal plate near each sensor down the line. The seismic waves reveal information about subterranean features. (Photo by Luke Chandler)


The sensors transmitted seismic data to a computer. This data will be processed over the next two or three weeks to determine if a large tunnel exists under this area. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

Previous visitors to Israel may recognize some of these ancient water systems from ancient Israel and Judah.


Inside the water tunnels of Jerusalem. (Photo by Luke Chandler)


Walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in Jerusalem. This water system carries water from the original spring to a pool that was inside the city walls 2,700 years ago (Photo by Luke Chandler)


A portion of the water system at Megiddo. City residents used to walk though this tunnel to access the original spring from the inside. (Photo by Luke Chandler)


Illustration showing the ancient water system at Beersheba (Beer Sheva). Aqueducts brought water from the nearby wadi/stream into underground chambers under the city walls.

Secure water systems were key to many cities’ defenses but could also lead to their abandonment. Cities frequently blocked and camouflaged the outside springs to deny them to attackers. If the interior tunnel entrances were buried or forgotten after a destruction event, the city could no longer support a population. A lack of water access may have led to the abandonment of once-great cities such as Megiddo, Hazor, Beersheba, and even Lachish.

Will we find a long lost underground water system at Lachish? We may know in just a few more weeks. Stay tuned for updates!

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads informative, meaningful tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
This entry was posted in 2016 Tel Lachish excavation, Biblical Archaeology, General Archaeology, Gezer, Hazor, Jerusalem, Lachish, megiddo, Tech & Resources, Water systems and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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