Hanan Shafir

Jebusite (Warren’s) Shaft: Excavation Director Yigal Shiloh supports a lighter member of the excavation team who tries to examine and climb up this ancient vertical shaft.

At the time of David (c. 1000 B.C.), the Jebusites lived in a small walled city on the Hill of Ophel. To protect their water supply during times of siege they carved an upper tunnel which led to this vertical shaft from within the city walls. By standing in the tunnel at the top of the shaft and dropping a bucket attached to a rope it was possible to draw up the water of the spring Gihon from a pool below into which it flowed through a lower tunnel. Thus the Jebusites could bring the precious water into the city without venturing outside the walls.

This shaft, important though it was to Jebusite survival, may also have led to the city’s capture by the Israelites. In 2 Samuel 5 David says “Whoever would smite the Jebusites let him get up the tsinnor … ” The Hebrew word, tsinnor is often translated “watershaft,” (although not all scholars agree with this meaning). Joab was successful in penetrating the city, perhaps through a watershaft, and thus became the chief of David’s army (1 Chronicles 11).

This shaft was first discovered by Charles Warren of the Palestine Exploration Fund in the 1860’s. Thus it is known as Warren’s Shaft. The shaft pictured here may be the one through which Joab first gained access to the Jebusite city.