Roman-era canal system unearthed near Dead Sea

The ancient canal system unearthed near the Dead Sea. Credit: Tzvika Tzuk/Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to An ancient canal system used 2,000 years ago to irrigate terraced agricultural plots has been unearthed in an excavation near the Roman-era fortress of Metzad Bokek in southern Israel. The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority jointly conducted the excavation.

The system used gravity to carry water from the Ein Bokek spring to the terraces. The longest of the canals measures 1.2 miles. Noah Michael, the archaeologist directing the dig for the IAA, said that “the canal system, which connected irrigation pools and linked to an aqueduct that conducted water from the spring, was plastered and apparently covered. Signs of repairs evident in the plaster demonstrate that the system was in use for a long time during the Roman era.”

The IAA said, “The terraces were used to raise various crops that were apparently used in the process of creating the legendary persimmon perfume. That perfume was known far and wide, and researchers think that on these terraces, the persimmon plants themselves, which were different from the persimmon trees we know today, were grown.”

The area of the Dead Sea Valley in question, from Ein Gedi to Jericho, was the only place in the world where the persimmon was grown, making persimmon products extremely valuable in ancient times. The persimmon perfume was produced by combining resin of persimmon with purified oil and sundry spices. Preservation work is currently underway on the fortress and the western pool in preparation for the site being opened to visitors.

Posted on February 3, 2016 .