With a bit of help from a 250 ton crane:
an ancient water reservoir is uncovered at Ramat Rahel

On Thursday, July 15, 2010, an ancient water reservoir was uncovered at the site of Ramat Rahel.

During excavations conducted at Ramat Rahel in the late 1950s and early 1960s, by
Y. Aharoni, the ceiling of a collapsed cave was unearthed in the northern part of the site (Aharoni 1964: 42-43). Due to a late Persian or early Hellenistic period wall that had been built on top of collapse, Aharoni understood that this cave had already collapsed in antiquity. The finds above the collapsed ceiling, including the famous window balustrades (Aharoni 1964: 56-58), were impressive, but Aharoni left the mysteries for others to investigate.

Area B2 Cave


During the 2009 excavation season, Ramat Rahel area supervisor Boaz Gross and his assistant David Dunn began excavating under the ceiling of the collapsed cave. The rock slabs were approximately one meter thick and removing them manually was impossible. However, a small part was removed and the excavation below revealed a plastered cavity, indicating that what lay below may have been a water reservoir. Following this discovery the excavation team decided to invest by mechanically removing the large bedrock slabs. With the generous financial support of Mr. Manfred Lautenschl?ger this operation took place in mid-July, 2010.

In the early morning hours, the Ramat Rahel team from Tel Aviv University (Prof. Oded Lipschits, Dr. Yuval Gadot, Liorah Freud, Boaz Gross, Omer Sergi, Ido Koch, Keren Ras, Alla Volvovsky, Shatil Emanuelov, Efrat Bocher Yoav Zur and Yoon-Kook Young), together with Yeshu Dray, an expert in restoring ancient technology (http://www.yeshuat.com), Ilana Cohen and a team of crane operators arrived at the site. Under the guidance of Yeshu Dray, the project was launched. Huge bedrock slabs and large wall boulders above them were marked, in order to ensure that they could later be returned to their original place. Then the 250 ton crane began doing its job, lifting the huge stone boulders from the walls built above the collapsed cave. Following this, the soil was manually removed from the large bedrock slabs of the cave in order to free the corners of the slabs so that the crane had a holding point. The excavation team cleared the loose soil around each of the slabs. With each huge slab relatively free from the rubble, Yeshu Dray secured the crane's grasp on it, and instructed the operator to lift and remove the stone slab away. Five huge stones, each weighing an average of ten tons each, were thus removed, and carefully set aside.

Despite the heavy machinery, the operation was conducted with surgical precision, all the while documented, photographed and filmed. Thus, the path was cleared for an organized and scientific excavation to be conducted in this area in the upcoming 2010 excavation season at Ramat Rahel. Hopefully further excavation will reveal important secrets hidden below, out of reach and unattainable until now.

By: Keren Ras