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