Siloam Inscription

    The Siloam inscription is a memorial inscription of the construction by king Hezekiah, of a corridor hewed through the rock on the 7th century b.C. and designed to carry the water from the Gihon fountain to the pool of Siloam in Zion, the heart of the old town of Jerusalem.

    This tunnel was discovered in 1880, and was examined by reputed archaeologists like Edward Robinson, Sir Charles Wilson y Sir Charles Warren, but the inscription remained unnoticed. According to the Easton Bible Dictionary (1897), this inscription in paleo-Hebrew characters, one of the oldest Hebrew inscriptions of this kind, was noticed by a young man, on the east side wall, about 6 meters far from the tunnel entrance, while walking through the corridor of the Siloam pool.

    In a robbery intent, the inscription was cut off the rock and broken in pieces, but fortunately and thanks to the British Consul in Jerusalem, the fragments were put back together and kept in the Ancient Oriental Museum of Istanbul, and were some time later, deciphered by professor A.H. Sayce.

English Transliteration of the Inscription:

1st line -     … … the tunnel ( )e This is the story of its excavation, when
2nd line -      - the mattocks dug one towards the other and 3 cubits of excavation(?) were left … … someone's voice… …
3rd line -     a call from the other side was heard, there was a reverberation (zedah = archaic word?) on the rock, to the right and to the left. And on the day
4th line -     the tunnel (was finished) the rock excavators hewed trough, each man toward the other side, mattock against mattock and
5th line -     the water ran from the fountain to the pool, throughout 1.200 cubits ... ... ( and of 100? )... ...
6th line -     was the height … the head of the excavators.

The translation could be:

    "Look at the tunnel, this is how it was driven through. The quarrymen hewed through, each man toward his fellow with their mattocks, and when there was only three cubits to be cut through, the voice of someone calling was heard by them; there was a reverberation on the rock from the right and from the left sides. And the day the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed the rock, each man toward his fellow, mattock against mattock; and the water flowed the distance of 1200 cubits, from the spring towards the pool, … … and the height of the rock above the heads of the quarrymen".

    This old inscription gives us the possibility to determine the longitude of the Hebrew cubit, for it states that the gallery is 1.200 cubit long, and as its length is of 533,40 meters, dividing 53.340 cm. by 1.200 cubits, we learn that the cubit used by the ancient Hebrew people, measured 44,45 cm.


    Archaeologists made use of carbon-14 to date the organic material in the tunnel's wall coating, and of uranium-thorium to date the stalactites grown inside it since the time its construction, and they found it was driven trough about 700 years b.C. supporting thus what the Bible reports, and cancelling the arguments of those who say it was built during the second century of our time.

    The pool of Siloam is located in the lower part of the southern side of Jerusalem's Mount Ophel, out of the walls of the old city, and it was feed by the water of the Gihon source, that flowed through two channels:
    The first -     of them was a Middle Bronze Era channel about 6 m. deep, directly cut on the rock and covered by flat stones.
    The second -     was Hezekiah's tunnel.

The lower pool

    Ancient testimony stated that during the period of the Second Temple, there was a lower pool facing further towards the valley than the upper one. In autumn 2004, some workers digging a sewer near the pool place, found some steps on the rock. The studious Ronny Reich in collaboration with Eli Shukron, both of them reputed archaeologists, examined the finding and it was soon obvious for them, that the steps were part of the lower pool of the Second Temple.

    The shape of this lower pool was slightly trapezoidal. Inside, it had three series of five steps, two of them leading to a platform midway from the bottom; these steps made possible the use of the water in all levels. The walls of the pool are covered with stonework but there are rests of a previous protective coating to prevent water drain off. Some of the coins found in the coating are from Alexander Ianneus day (104 to 76 b.C.), and others found in the bottom of the pool, are from the time of the Jewish wars during the years 66 to 70 of our age.

    As a water reservoir, the pool must have been a place intended for the ritual washing and the purifications of the old time Hebrews on their way to Jerusalem's Temple. This is probably the pool mentioned by John in his gospel, chapter 9:6-11.