Location of Solomon's Temple
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Charles Warren Survey Map
(Note: I overlaid the water system to this map after finding a more complete survey map by Warren)
Charles Warren Survey Map
Warren map overlaid with temple diagram Click here
 
 

Cistern #8
sketch of Cistern #8  The Great Sea

Water Channels

Access was obtained to the water conduits through a hole in one of them in front of AI-Aksa, and they were traced as far as possible, but the rubbish has fallen in in many places, and with the exception of two or three the branch ducts are too small to admit of the passage of a man. From the number of openings seen, there must be a perfect net-work of small subterranean channels in this part of the area, but without excavation they could not be traced. It is very difficult to judge of the age of these conduits, but where cut in the rock they have been probably made at the same period as the cisterns, as the one which enters the large cistern east of the "Great Sea,' and this was found to be in connexion with another conduit leading down to the "Well of the Leaf" and one running up in the direction of the Fountain Al-Kas (the cup); the connecting branches were in part cut out of the rock, in part made of masonry and roofed with large stones. Besides these conduits which appear to have been in connexion with the aqueduct from the Pools of Solomon, there are number of others apparently of more modern construction for collecting the surface drainage into the cisterns: No regular system of water channels could be found in the northern part of the area, except those of very modern date, but it is not improbable that such may exist.
 

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THE UNDERGROUND CHAMBERS

The bold Italic print below is from Wilson's Ordnance Survey of Jerusalem concerning the underground chambers of the Temple Mount. He calls them "cisterns."
A few years later, Charles Warren checked Wilson's measurements and made many additional ones of his own. Warren's notes are taken from his Recovery of Jerusalem, which he collaborated with Wilson.

The numbers refer to the Map of the underground chambers.

(Wilson) Cistern No. I, under platform to north of the "Dome of the Rock," descended; 40 feet deep, 1 foot 6 inches of water, rectangular in shape; the southern end is raised 4 feet 6 inches above the main body of the cistern ; there are two openings in use, and one closed; no trace could be seen of any conduit entering, except the surface gutters; the roof is of masonry, and is a plain semicircular vault.

(Warren's notes) Rock 2427 feet above Mediterranean, and 12 feet below surface of Dome of the Rock platform. This tank is a tunnel about 130 feet long and 24 feet wide, cut in rock for 18 feet from bottom to springing of arch, which is segmental. Signor Pierotti describes a passage connecting this tank with a chamber under the Sakhra; and I have to suggest that this Sakhra cave is the gate Nitsots, from whence there was a passage through the tunnel to the gate Tadi.
 

Cistern No. II, under platform to north-east of the "Dome of the Rock," 47 feet 6 inches deep, 5 feet 8 inches of water; not visited, but apparently of large size.

Rock 2429; 6 feet from surface. This is a large tank cut in rock, but there was too much water in it for us to measure it. Length about 60 feet; breadth about 50 feet. The sheikh of the Mosque said it communicated with No. 34 hard by; but it does not appear to do so.
 

Cistern No. III, under platform to north-west of the "Dome of the Rock," 32 feet deep, 1 foot of water but deeper in western chamber, which could not be explored. The main cistern is divided by a wall of barely built masonry, of which a good deal of the cement has fallen, and through which there is a communication between the two chambers by a low-arched doorway; there are two openings in use, at the south-west corner a channel cut in the rock as noticed coming into the cistern, but it could not be reached; the roof of the southern portion is of rock, but the northern chambers are covered with elliptical, almost pointed, vaults.

Rock 2426 feet; 9 feet from surface. A channel cut in the rock, leading into this tank, was examined November, 1867; it runs north and south, and conducts into the tank surface water from small ducts which run east and west. There are three chambers in this tank, which are separated by piers, through which there are low-arched doorways. I have to suggest that this may have been the House of Baptism, communicating with the room of Beth Mokad and the gate Tadi.

It is to be noticed that the tanks Nos. 1 and 3 would, if produced north, meet together at the northern edge of the platform, where there is a hollow-sounding piece of ground. Under this may still be the gate Tadi, opening out through the scarped rock, one portion of which was found somewhat to the east at Souterrain 29.

Cistern No. IV, under platform to the west of the "Dome of the Rock," 37 feet deep ; descended through a long narrow shaft not large enough to receive a ladder; at the bottom one of the small retort-shaped cisterns was found.

No. 4. A small retort-shaped cistern; rock 2417 feet; 18 feet below surface. At 11 feet below surface is a more ancient entrance-mouth to this tank, somewhat above the general level of the Sanctuary.

Cistern No. V, under platform to the south-east of the "Dome of the Rock," descended; 48 feet deep, 2 feet water. This cistern has a curious cruciform shape; at the eastern end a low doorway cut in the rock leads to a flight of steps, which after ascending some distance in a southerly direction, turns sharp off to the east, and communicates with a subterranean passage; the passage is covered by a semicircular vault, and at its entrance to the cistern are the remains of a doorway; on the floor there was a thick slimy deposit, and a few yards beyond the doorway the opening was blocked up by earth; there are two openings to the cistern in use and one closed, below one of the former a rough basin has been made to collect the water from the different branches. No conduit could be seen entering the cistern; the roof of the south-eastern branch is of rock, but there was not sufficient light to see what that of the other portion was made of.

At north-west entrance rock is 2425 feet; 10 feet below platform; at south-east entrance rock at 2408 feet, 8 feet below surface of sanctuary; and at 20 feet below surface a conduit for water opens into the cistern. It is over the north-western end of this tank that I have to suggest was the position of the Altar of Burnt-offerings.

It is extremely interesting to find the following in Mejir ed Din, as it possibly refers to an older legend, which some readers may have heard of ("Mines d’Orient," p. 94) : --

"The Dome of the Roll. This is on the platform of the Sakhra on the south-west. I have been told that it is so called because one of the ancient kings, on a visit to Jerusalem, having ascended the Mount of Olives, threw a roll which fell here; which gave occasion to the building of the Dome and to its name. Men have invented divers accounts of the matter; God only knows the truth. "

This Dome of the Roll would have stood over cistern 5, very near where it is suggested the altar stood; and the legend appears likely to be older than the Moslem era. It is evident that Mejir ed Din relates only one account of many that he knew. The Jews at the present day affirm that the volume of the Sacred Law is buried somewhere in the Sanctuary, for which reason it is forbidden to them to enter; and there is a legend given in one of the works of Jerusalem stating how this volume was found.

Cistern No. VI, south of the platform and near the fountain Al-Kas, descended; 41 feet deep, 1 foot 4 inches water. This cistern has a branch on its southern side 25 feet long, and raised 4 feet 8 inches above the floor line; its shape is peculiar, being that of a hollow truncated pyramid; no conduit was seen entering; the roof was partly of rock and partly of large flat stones.

Rock 2410 feet 6 inches; at 5 feet 6 inches from surface.
 

Cistern No. VII, east of the Great Sea, descended; 62 feet deep, 2 feet 6 inches water. The construction of this cistern is very curious, at one side there is a lofty chamber having two entrances and raised 6 feet above the general level, and in the south-eastern branch four steps lead up to a small flat platform, as to the altar of a church; on descending, the entrance of a rock-cut water conduit was seen, and this was afterwards found to communicate with the general system in this part of the area; there are two mouths, close together, with an opening between them, now roofed with fragments of marble columns; the roofing is of rock. On the cement a number of white hands were painted, probably as a charm against evil spirits.

Rock 2411 feet; at 5 feet from surface.
 

Cistern No. VIII., north of AI-Aksa, commonly known as "the Great Sea," descended; 43 feet 2 inches deep, from 3 to 6 inches of water; the entrance to this is by a flight of steps leading down from a hole on the northern side of the workshops east of Al-Aksa; it is the largest of the series of cisterns, and the roof is partly supported by stone pillars left for the purpose when the excavation was made; the shape is peculiar, especially a small circular chamber in the north-west corner, the floor is uneven, and was partly dry when the cistern was visited; a conduit cut in the rook was seen coming in from the east, but it could not be reached; there have been a great many mouths, but only three are now in use; the roof is principally of rock, but part is of large flat stones and part vaulted.

Rock generally 2411; at 5 feet below surface. This is called the Great Sea. The rock was viewed at the entrances and at the steps.

Cistern No. IX, under Al-Aksa, known as the "Well of the Leaf," descended; 42 feet deep, 3 feet 6 inches water at northern end; at southern, deeper; on the north side there is a curious branch or arm, and near the centre a pillar has been left to assist in sustaining the roof. Whilst proceeding towards the south, a sudden fall into deep water extinguished the light, not however before the southern boundary was seen ; the measurements were lost, but the plan was made from memory immediately after ascending; the conduit seen in the "double passage" was noticed entering the shaft; the roof is of rock.

Rock appeared to be about 2400 feet, but not for certain. This is called the Well of the Leaf.

Cistern No. X, descended; 30 feet deep, no water; the entrance to this is by a hole in the most western of the passages leading from the "Triple Gateway"; it has one mouth nearly closed, and is roofed with rock.

Rock 2387 feet; at 31 feet below surface. This tank communicates with Solomon’s Stables and the canal under the Triple Gate.

Cistern No. XI, east of Al-Aksa; 62 feet 6 inches deep, 8 feet of water; not visited, apparently very large.

Examined 11th November, 1867. Situate on east of Mosque of Aksa. Rock 2397; at 19 feet below surface; bottom 61 feet 6 inches below surface of ground. It consists of three tanks, each about 26 feet by 40 feet, lying east and west, connected by a passage 14 feet wide, running north and south; it is capable of holding 700,000 gallons of water. The roof is cut in rock, in the form of arches. Steps cut in the rock run up along the west side, and issue close to the mouth of the cistern. There is the foundation of a massive wall on the rock to west of steps.

The vaulted passage from the Triple Gate runs over the cistern.

Cistern No. XII, southernmost of the three cisterns to south-west of Golden gateway,

descended; 44 feet deep, no water; no conduit seen coming in; roofed with a plain semicircular vault.

Rock, partially on surface, 2406 feet.

Cistern No. XIII, middle of three cisterns near the Golden Gate, not visited; 40 feet deep, dry; apparently small, and roofed with masonry.

Rock on surface 2409 feet; of an irregular shape, about 30 feet square; sides perpendicular, roof partially domes in rock, ribs of rock springing from angles. A conduit for surface-water comes in from the east; it comes from a receiving tank 250 feet father to the north, between Nos. 15 and 18. It is built close in under the surface of the Sanctuary.

Cistern No. XIV, northern of the three cisterns south-west of Golden Gateway, descended; 29 feet deep, dry; there are two chambers, connected by an opening, which appear to be, in part, natural caverns; the cisterns are covered by a plain semicircular vault.

Rock 2409 feet; on surface.

Signor Pierotti, Plate XI., shows the cistern Nos. 12, 13, and 14, as communicating one with another. They have no connection with each other at present, neither is there any sign of the conduit running in from Nos. 1 to 13., which he shows on his plate.

Cistern No. XV, near Golden Gateway, not visited; 35 feet deep, dry.

Cistern near the Golden Gate, nearly circular; about 18 feet in diameter, and cut and roofed in rock.

Rock about 2393 feet; about 15 feet below surface.

Cistern No. XVI, near Pool of Bethesda, not visited; 23 feet deep, dry.

Cistern No. XVII; near Pool of Bethesda, not visited; 29 feet deep; dry.

(16 and 17; near Birket Israil) No rock found. See letter of February 1st, 1869.

Substructure in the Sanctuary, near Bab Hytta (extract).—" At the northern end of the Sanctuary east of Bab Hytta are two tank mouths, 16 and 17, which were not examined by Captain Wilson. They are closed by heavy stones. To the west of these is a private garden which projects out into and forms part of the Sanctuary; in this garden are two other tank mouths. I examined one of these some months ago, but was unable to get down the other on account of the small size of the opening. On Monday last I went again to this garden to have another try at these cisterns, and first examined that to the west, which is simply a tank about 8 feet by 15 feet, with a semicircular arch over it and no appearance of rock about it. I then went to the other, situate at the south-east angle of the little garden, which at this point is elevated about 10 feet above the Sanctuary at mouth of 17 (the mouth 17 appears to be at an elevation of 2413 feet). On sounding I found it 42 feet down to the water. I tried to descend, but to no purpose, until I had nearly stripped to the skin, and even then in my contortions I managed to slip the rope over one arm. The narrow passage was only 3 feet, and 10 feet from the surface I came on the floor of a little chamber about 6 feet square, apparently on a level with Sanctuary. The shaft down to the cistern continues through the floor of this chamber, and is a moderate-sized opening. On getting down to the water I found it only 3 feet deep, and concluding from the size of the cistern that help would be required in measuring, I signaled for Sergeant Birtles to come down.

"On lighting up the magnesium ire and looking about me, I was astonished, my first impression being that I had got into a church similar to that of the cathedral (formerly a mosque) at Cordova. I could see arch upon arch to north and east, apparently rows of them.

"After floundering about some little distance, however, I could see that there was a limit to these substructures at no great distance to north and east. In the mean time Sergeant Birtles was making great efforts above with very little result; do what he would he could not get past the narrow opening to the cistern, and at last had to give up the trial and go and get leave from the owner to pull down the upper mouth of the shaft, and then he very soon appeared at the bottom, his shoulders considerably injured in his exertions. In the mean time the excitement of our "find" had begun to ear off, and the water felt cold. I was just giving the sergeant some sage advice as to how he could direct his steps to the best advantage, when I stumbled over a large stone and fell into the water flat on my face. As just as present the weather is frosty, and the rain is generally accompanied by sleet or hail, a bath in one’s clothes is anything but pleasant. I found the stones on which I stumbled to be about six in number: they average 7 feet in length, and 3 feet in depth and width. I could see no inscriptions on them; they appear to have fallen in by accident.

"The substructure, now used as a tank, is 63 feet from north to south, and 57 feet from east to west, thus being nearly square; it northern wall is 23 feet 6 inches form the south side of the Birket Israil. It consists of nine rectangular bays, formed by four piers, cruciform on plan, equidistant from each other and from the walls, from which spring arche3s. The arches between the piers, and between the two northern piers and walls are stilted and pointed; those from the two southern piers to the walls appear to be flying buttresses, unless the remainder of these arches are concealed behind the east, west, and south walls of the substructure. The dimensions of arches and piers all vary somewhat, which may arise form the thick coast of plaster which exists up to the tops of these arches, that is, to about 14 feet above the floor of the tank. These arches support nothing, they merely strengthen the piers and resist any lateral thrust against the side walls.

"The whole of the substructure is covered in by vaults intersecting in groins over the bays. Surface-ribs (of cut stone) are thrown over from the piers to the sides, the remainder of the arches being composed of rag-work; the vaults are pointed. The springing of the vault surfaced-ribs is 14 feet above the floor of the substructure, and the cement does not reach higher than the point. The vaults from springing to crown are also about 14 feet in height, giving a total of 28 feet from floor to crown.

"In the south wall is a staircase leading up to the surface of Sanctuary, which I understand has been open within the memory of man. Near the bottom of the steps is a shaft leading up to entrance No. 17, and in the centre bay is an opening leading up to entrance No. 16. There is no appearance of an open continuation of these vaults in any direction. There is an opening on the northern side about 2 feet in height and 1 foot wide, on a level with the top of the cement, which lets in light; and on examining the pool Birket Israil I find a grating in the south wall (2 feet square) exactly opposite the opening in the substructure, and which undoubtedly communicates with it, but whether directly through the thickness of the wall, or whether through another chamber in the wall, has yet to be determined; through this opening any superfluous water in the substructure would flow into the Birket Israil.

"These vaults are unlike any known tanks in Jerusalem, and so very different from the substructures at the south-east angle Haram Area. I do not think that such a structure as this was built merely for a tank; and if it was simply to support the present surface of the Haram, then there is probably more of it to be found to south and east.

"We were altogether three hours in the water measuring, and I took everything I could get at, and have put the most important measurements on the 10 feet to an inch plan.

"The vaults look small when compared to the Birket Israil in section, but then the Birket is really an enormous reservoir, nearly 100 feet deep.

"The large stones I found huddled together at the bottom in the water, are, I think evidence of the roof having one fallen in and been replaced."

Cistern No. XVIII, near Saral; 37 feet 6 inches deep, 6 inches water.

Near the Serai. Tock 2414 feet; 4 feet from surface: a small tank 7 feet by 10 feet and 38 feet deep.

Cistern No. XIX, in south-west corner of Haram; 44 feet deep, 8 inches water.

Cistern No. XX, in south-west corner of Haram; 30 feet deep, 4 inches water.

In the two last cisterns the mouths and shafts were too small to descend; as far as could be judged from the surface they were of no great size.

(19 and 20) These are described in the Appendix to Captain Wilson’s O.S. notes. In No. 19 there is no appearance of rock 2374 feet.

No. 21. South of Birket Israil, 21 feet deep, 24 feet by 12 feet of masonry; no appearance of rock.

No. 22. Near the gate of the Inspector. A large cistern of the type found down by Beit Jebrin and Deir Dubān. It is cut and roofed in rock, domed. A flight of rock-cut steps runs round the curved wall: there are two openings into it from above, now closed up. Rock 2416 feet; 4 feet below surface.

No. 23. Rock 2429 feet, on surface; tank retort-shaped, about 8 feet in diameter and 35 feet deep: situated at north-west angle of platform.

No. 24. Rock 2425 feet; 9 feet below surface of platform. The rock is here exposed under the vault of a building; it falls at an angle of about 30° to west; this is probably referred to by Mejir ed Din ("Mines d’Orient," p. 91): "On the west side of the Mesjid are rocks said to be of the time of David. It is evident they are natural rocks rooted in the ground and never removed."

No. 25. Rock 2416 feet; 20 feet from surface: a small tank about 12 feet in diameter and 37 feet deep; situate a few feet south of No. 24.

No. 26. In garden east of Nos. 16 and 17: a small tank; no rock seen.

No. 27. In garden at north-west angle of Sanctuary; it is cut in the scarped rock.

No. 28. Rock 2412 feet; 3 feet from surface; situate at north-east angle of platform; it is cut in the rock, and is about 20 feet in diameter. Its position is of importance, as it shows that the scarped rock found in (No. 29), along northern edge of platform, did not extend so far east at this point.

No. 30 is the cistern which pierces the Sanctuary wall, south of the gate of the Bath; it is described in Captain Wilson’s notes; rock was not found there.

No. 32 is a small tank in the Aksa (place of women): it apparently leads from the Well of the Leaf.

No. 33 is a small tank north of the Aksa, under the stairs going down to the double passage rock.

Double passage below the Aksa. —Search was made on all sides of this passage. The "Well of the Leaf" was examined, and at the bottom was found a curious arch of tiles (like Malaga bricks): it has the appearance of having acted as an outlet to some subterranean flow of water. In examining the aqueduct which leads through the double passage to the well, a blocked-up passage was found, and, on removing the rubbish, it was found to lead into several ducts, which the plan (*Lithograph, No. 9.) will best describe: they are about 5 feet below the present Haram surface, and are similar to those beneath the Sakhra platform: one of them is rendered with a very curious plaster of broken pebbles, and somewhere in its length it is possible there may be the shaft to a tank beneath, as the inclination of the ducts appears to be towards this passage.
 

"No. 34 is close to No. 2, at north-east angle of platform; it was examined, but not measured; it is of an irregular shape, cut in the rock, and perhaps 60 feet in diameter: at the north-east angle is a passage cut in the rock which appears to terminate after about 10 feet. Rock 2431."

The cisterns were visited in December and January, before the fall of the later rains; the measurements were made with a rule when alone, with a tape when in company, and the bearings taken with a prismatic or pocket compass; neither can be considered very exact, as it is not an easy matter to work with a candle in one hand and up to the knees in water; it was very difficult in some cases to determine the character of the roof, and be certain that no conduits existed, as candles gave but a poor light in such large chambers, and before any magnesium wire could be obtained from England, the winter rains had fallen and stopped further exploration.
 

Original information from "Room 51 Library" 

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