The Entrance to the Water Shaft on Tel Megiddo
The water source for Megiddo was a spring at the base of the hill on which this strategic city was built. From its early history through the time of Solomon, the people reached the water by walking through a small postern gate and into a gallery (a roofed hallway) that went down the side of the tel to the cave where the spring was located. The remains of this long, narrow extension of the city still exist where it passes through the city wall. This gallery provided security for the water supply, though during a siege the enemy could still destroy it and prevent the inhabitants from reaching it.
Scholars believe that sometime during the ninth century BC (Ahab is considered a likely candidate for having the vision to initiate this project), a square, vertical shaft was dug in the southwestern corner of the tel, through the many layers of earlier settlement and bedrock, to a depth of more than 115 feet. It was connected to a horizontal tunnel that went underneath the city to the cave where the spring was located.
This photograph shows the magnitude of the shaft and the amount of digging it took to complete the task. Steps wound around the outside of the shaft so the townspeople could reach the water. The remains of these steps can be seen just to the left of the railing, next to a modern stairway built by the Israeli Department of Antiquities. The steps were worn smooth by the feet of thousands of people who made the daily trip to draw water centuries ago. Also seen are the remains of walls originally built to keep the soil from collapsing into the shaft. The shaft seen here continues 100 feet deeper into the ground.
The great size of the shaft indicates both the strategic significance of Megiddo and the amount of effort ancient peoples expended to obtain water.
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