|Israeli archaeologists announced on Tuesday they had uncovered a new section of a 2,000-year-old drainage channel linking the ancient City of David to the plaza in front of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site.
The channel, which lies just to the west of the Temple Mount compound, was first unearthed in 2007, and was used by Jews after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 A.D. to flee the conquering Romans, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The channel lies beneath the main paved and stepped road which traversed Jerusalem in those days, the IAA said in a statement published on its website. "The archaeological excavation coupled with extensive research conclusively proved the theory that these two parts were actually part of a single water channel," according to Professor Ronny Reich of the IAA.
"This was proven when those cleaning the debris inside the channel from the southern end connected with the portion of the channel that is next to Robinson's Arch," Reich said.
The road passed next to the Western Wall in the north and down to the Siloam Pool in the southern portion of the City of David. At no point does the route of either the road or channel pass beneath the Temple Mount, according to the government agency.
Historian Josephus Flavius wrote in "The War of the Jews," that, as the Temple was being destroyed, people hid and lived within the drainage channel until they fled Jerusalem through its southern end.
The walls of the tunnel reach a height of 10 feet in some places and are covered by heavy stone slabs that were the road's paving stones, according to the IAA.
The northern part was discovered in 1867 by the British explorer Charles Warren, and the southern segment by archaeologists Bliss & Dickey in the same period.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, trying to head off Muslim ire over the dig, said no excavations had taken place beneath Muslim holy places atop the Temple Mount.
For the last two years, the southern portion of the water channel has been open to the public. Officials said the new site could be opened to the public within a year.