Palestine Exploration Fund

Huge, fingerlike openings cut their way through the massive underground water cistern known as the Great Sea (number 8 on the plan). Painted by William “Crimea” Simpson and published here in color for the first time, this scene conveys a sense of the Temple Mount’s underground installations—now inaccessible due to Muslim religious and political sensitivities. Cut 43 feet below the level of the Temple Mount, this cistern was entered by a staircase from beneath the site of the former Akra fortress. Ritmeyer suggests that stones cut from this cistern may have supplied the material for the Hasmonean extension of the Temple Mount platform.