Before publication of the preliminary report of Yigal Shiloh’s excavations at the City of David, we received the following letter from BAR reader Clyde Senger, a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, suggesting that Warren’s Shaft was at least partly a natural, rather than artificially dug, installation. In his reply, archaeologist Shiloh congratulates Professor Senger for his perspicacity. Further details about Warren’s Shaft are discussed on this page.

The article by Yigal Shiloh, “The Rediscovery of Warren’s Shaft,” BAR 07:04, caught my attention, especially because of his comment about the changing water level of the Gihon Spring. This changing water level is characteristic of certain cave streams that pass under a siphon. It is obvious that there is more cave upstream from the Gihon Spring. However, my main concern is with Warren’s Shaft. I believe the reader was left with the impression that the shaft was engineered and cut through limestone to reach the spring. I very strongly suspect that the shaft was originally a natural shaft or cave that had been developed by water. I would assume that it was large enough to crawl to—at least to the vertical shaft, and perhaps even down to the spring itself. In a cave, it is possible to hear water some distance through cracks too small to enter. Thus, even if the proposed cave could not be penetrated as far as the spring, early people of the area might well have been aware that water was nearby. I assume they would then have enlarged the cave to a reasonable size when there was a need for access to the water. If the proposed original passage was large enough, there may still be sections of wall that were not worked or that were only worked to a limited extent. Such sections should be easy to pick out for a geologist familiar with caves. I do not know if a search for such a wall has been carried out. If not, I think it would be interesting to do so.

Yigal Shiloh replies:

On pages 21–22 of our preliminary report entitled Excavations at the City of David, Vol. I, 1978–1982, you will find a summary of our conclusions based on the archaeo-hydrogeological survey of Warren’s Shaft, carried out by our team under the direction of the geologist Dan Gil. Some of the conclusions are similar to your conclusions. But I have to congratulate you, because you came to your conclusions so far away from the site, without seeing it. Warren’s Shaft is nevertheless a special situation. All the water tunnels at other Biblical sites are probably mostly artificial.