Zion Fortress and the Spring Citadel of City of David

Archeological digs in the Biblical City of David started in 1867 – exactly 100 years before the city returned to Jewish control – by The Palestine Exploration Fund (P.E.F), led by Captain Charles Warren. But the first excavator to reach the thick of the fortress, without even realizing it at the time, was a treasure hunter by the name of Montague Parker, who was searching for the Ark of the Covenant and King Solomon’s treasures in the heart of the massive Canaanite fortress between the years 1909-1911.


Fifteen-year-long archeological dig (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)

Fifteen-year-long archeological dig (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)


After the inauguration in 2014 to reveal a massive Canaanite fortress, the 19-year excavationwork led by Professor Ronny Reich proved to have nice results revealing this structure built some 3,800 years ago, the biggest fortress ever uncovered in Israel from the pre-Herod period.

The massive Canaanite fortress, that was built in the 18 century BC, was excavated in a complex operation led by Professor Ronny Reich from Haifa University and Eli Shukron from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The fortress protects the Biblical Gihon Spring with a massive fortification that isolates the spring and allows access to it only to those coming from the west – from inside the city. According to Shmuel II chapter 5, King David conquered the “Zion Fortress” from the Jebusite king and his men. The Spring House raises the possibility that it is the same impressive fortress, into which King David’s men entered as they were conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David.
2 Samuel 5:6–7
Illustration of Gihon Spring

Illustration of Gihon Spring (“Fountain of Siloam”) by David Roberts

At the beginning of Kings I, we also find Nathan the prophet and Tzadok HaKohen (the “Righteous” or “Justified” priest) a descendant from Eleazar the son of Aaron (1 Chron 6:4-8), describing King Solomon‘s coronation as taking place “on Gihon.” This ceremony took place, researchers believe, at the heart of the Spring House – over the gushing Gihon Spring.

King David said, “Summon to me the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel; then blow the trumpet, and say, “Long live King Solomon!”
1 Kings 1:32–34
Hidden treasures (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)

Hidden treasures (Photo: Eli Mandelbaum)

Passageway to the Gihon spring (Photo: Eli Mendelbaum)

Passageway to the Gihon spring (Photo: Eli Mendelbaum)


According to Oriya Dasberg, director of development in the City of David,

“The Spring Citadel was built in order to save and protect the water of the city from enemies coming to conquer it, as well as to protect the people going down to the spring to get water and bring it back up to the city.”

With 23-foot-thick walls comprised of stone blocks up to ten feet wide (seven-meters-thick walls made up of 2-3 meters-big stones), built 3,800 years ago without any mechanic tools, the Spring Citadel represents the largest Canaanite fortress,discovered thus far in Israel.

Two-three meter-big stones (Photo: Eli Mendelbaum)

Two-three meter-big stones (Photo: Eli Mendelbaum)


“In order to protect the water source, they built not only the tower – but also a fortified passageway that allowed the city residents a safe access to the water source,”

archeologist G. Uziel said.

“This very impressive structure was operating until the end of the Iron Age, and it was only when the First Temple was destroyed that the fortress fell into ruin and stopped being used.”

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