The Ancient Pool of Siloam, a 2,700-year-old rock pool used in Jerusalem during the 8th century BCE, is set to be fully excavated and opened up to the public for the first time in modern times.
Located in the southern portion of the City of David, the Pool of Siloam was built by King Hezekiah in the 8th century BCE in order to provide water to Jerusalem.
As mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Kings II, 20:20: "Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made the Pool, and the conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of Chronicles of the kings of Judah?"
However, it also took on a deeper spiritual role too. It’s believed the pool was used during this time as a ritual bath, known as “mikveh”, by pilgrims who submerged themselves in the water before heading through the City of David to the Temple. Considering the rock pool was likely over 0.4 hectares (1 acre) in size at its peak, thousands of people could have potentially congregated here.
The pool is also mentioned in some of the tales associated with Jesus. In the New Testament’s John 9, there is a story about Jesus performing the miracle of giving sight to a man who was blind from birth. It reads: “He told him, ‘Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam’. So the man went and washed, and came back seeing.”
While few could vouch for the water's miraculous properties nowadays, the site is clearly of huge historical and cultural value.
A number of archeological missions first stumbled upon evidence of the pool in the late 19th century. In 1880, the famous Siloam Inscription was uncovered in a water tunnel near the Pool. Written in ancient Hebrew script, it explains how the Gihon Spring's water was diverted to the Pool during the reign of King Hezekiah. In the following decade, a group of British-American archaeologists uncovered some of the steps of the Pool.
However, it was until the autumn of 2004 that the extent of the pool was rediscovered during excavation work for a sewer. In an announcement this week, the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel National Parks Authority, and the City of David Foundation said they’re now looking to fully excavate the site, with the idea of opening it up to tourists by 2023.
"The Pool of Siloam in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem is a site of historic, national, and international significance. After many years of anticipation, we will soon merit being able to uncover this important site and make it accessible to the millions of visitors visiting Jerusalem each year,” Moshe Lion, Mayor of Jerusalem, said in a statement.