The Antiquities Authority on Thursday unearthed for the first time a small
2,000-yearold cistern near the Western Wall that connects an archeological find
with the famine that occurred during the Roman siege of Jerusalem during that
The cistern – found near Robinson’s Arch in a drainage channel from
the Shiloah Pool in the City of David – contained three intact cooking pots and
a small ceramic oil lamp.
According to Eli Shukron, the excavations
director for the Antiquities Authority, the discovery is
“The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp indicate
that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that
was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them,” he said. “This is
consistent with the account provided by Josephus.”
In his book The Jewish
War that describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Jewish scholar
Josephus detailed the resulting hunger that ensued.
In his account,
Josephus, also known as Yosef ben Matityahu, wrote of Jewish rebels who sought
food in the homes of other starving Jews confined to the city. Fearing these
rebels would steal their food, many Jews used cisterns to conceal their meager
provisions, and later ate in hidden places within their homes.
famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it,” Josephus
“For as nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the
houses and ransacked them,” he continued.
“If they found some, they
maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they
suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured
Josephus recounted that many Jews suffering from starvation would
barter their possessions for small quantities of food in order to stay
“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of
corn-wheat if they happened to be rich; barley if they were poor,” he
“They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses,
where some, through extreme hunger, ate their grain as it was; others made
bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table
The artifacts will be on display during a July 4 conference on the
City of David, organized by the Megalim Institute.
Earlier in the week,
the Antiquities Authority uncovered in Beit Hanina a well-preserved section of
an 1,800- year-old road leading from Jerusalem to Jaffa during a routine
excavation prior to the installation of a drainage pipe in the northern
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