Caesarea Aqueduct – Ancient Engineering at its Best

The old city Caesarea required a steady flow of running water. Initially its waters came from the local wells. However, as the population grew to several hundred thousand people, a large scale aqueduct was required to bring the water from a distance. Map.

The aqueduct was built in several phases, starting from King Herod. The first aqueduct was built by Herod (37BC to 4BC), at the time the new city was founded and dedicated to the Roman Caesar, Augustus.

Caesarea Aqueduct
Caesarea Aqueduct

It brought the water from the southern side of Mount Carmel, at Shummi, about 10 km. to the north east of the city. The water flowed on a single raised canal, and in one section it is dug into the rock (at Jiser e-Zarka, an Arab village north of Caesarea). Since even this was not sufficient, a second aqueduct was built by the Legions of the Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD).

Caesarea Aqueduct
Caesarea Aqueduct

It brought water from Tanninim (Crocodiles) river, farther from Shummi. This section, with a tunnel of about 6 km. long, was tapped into the older aqueduct, and doubled its capacity. This new source of water was added to the right of the first canal, and the aqueduct was thus doubled in width. The builders used the same building materials and style, so it is hard to see that the pair of tunnels were built in different ages.

Caesarea Aqueduct
Caesarea Aqueduct

These twin parallel aqueducts, termed today as the High-level aqueducts, continued to supply water for 1,200 years. During the ages it was repaired several times. In the marsh lands east of Jiser e-Zarka a bypass canal was built to overcome the damages. After that time the aqueduct was beyond repair. Therefore, in the Crusaders period (12th Century A.D.), a third, smaller, canal was built that replaced the first two. At that time the City was smaller and required less water, so the third smaller canal was sufficient.

Caesarea Aqueduct
Caesarea Aqueduct

Another (forth) lower aqueduct was built during the Byzantine period in order to satisfy the growing needs for fresh water supply to the large city. This aqueduct started from a new source of water: the springs at Maagan Michael, several kilometers north to Jiser-E-Zarka. Since the water level was too low, a dam was built in order to create a lake, thus raising the water levels at the source.

Caesarea Aqueduct
Caesarea Aqueduct

Then, a canal was dug in the sandstone ridge and brought the water to the city. This canal was laid lower and to the east of the raised Aqueduct.

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