Archaeologists expose Ottoman-era well in central Israel

A water system dating back hundreds of years was recently exposed during an archaeological excavation prior to the widening of a highway.

A water system dating back to the Ottoman era (1301-1922) was recently exposed near Ramat Beit Shemesh, in the center of Israel, during an archaeological excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) prior to the widening of Highway 38.

The well, hundreds of years old, is about 3.5 meters in diameter and was dug deep into the groundwater level, which is today about two meters below the surface.

A small underground space with a vaulted ceiling adjoins the well. IAA researchers believe that this structure, the likes of which are unknown in the Judean region, was used to store excess water.

It joins a series of wells that have been documented over the years along Route 38. The well, surrounded by biblical-like palm trees and thick, flourishing aquatic flora, preserves one of the physical characteristics of the main route and contributes to the reconstruction of the ancient landscape in the lower Judean hills.

Michal Haber, excavation director on behalf of the IAA, explained that “Route 38, which connects Shaʽar Ha-Gai [on the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem road] with Beit Guvrin [further south], is today one of the country’s main longitudinal arteries. It constitutes a corridor that links the north of Israel with the south, and it was this way during the course of many periods in the country’s history.”

Throughout the generations, habitats, villages, farms and monasteries were built along this artery, and roadside stations prospered between them.

The IAA believes that such wells were installed at various times in order to meet the needs of travelers as well as people who resided alongside the road.

Amit Shadman, the IAA district archaeologist, said that “the exposure of the site and its importance in the landscape pose a great challenge for the [modern] road planners and the Israel Antiquities Authority.”

They will try to preserve the site and develop it as part of rehabilitating the landscape while continuing with their plans to complete the modern road.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News