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Strata: King Hezekiah Did Build the Tunnel, BAR 29:06, Nov-Dec 2003.

Bible and Beyond
Scientific Tests Substantiate Biblical Account

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Israeli scientists carrying out carbon-14 analysis on wood, coal and ash found in the plaster walls of Jerusalem’s ancient Siloam Tunnel, and running isotopic tests on the uranium and thorium present in stalactites on the tunnel’s ceiling, have determined that the tunnel was hewn around 700 B.C.—corroborating the Bible.

Their findings support the account in 2 Kings 20-20 that describes how King Hezekiah (727–697 B.C.) “made a pool and a conduit and brought water into the city” to protect Jerusalem’s water supply from King Sennacherib’s besieging Assyrian army. The Siloam Tunnel, also called Hezekiah’s Tunnel, snakes its way for about a third of a mile south from the Gihon Spring to the Siloam pool—a reservoir that was inside the walls of Hezekiah’s Jerusalem, in the section of the city known as the City of David.

An ancient 100-word inscription discovered in 1880 describes the construction of the tunnel; the paleography—the shape and stance of the letters—in the inscription pointed to Hezekiah’s time, but assigning a firm date to the tunnel had to await modern scientific analysis. Some scholars have argued that the Siloam Tunnel inscription dated to the second century B.C., a claim roundly disputed by most scholars.

According to Amos Frumkin, head of Hebrew University’s geography department and one of three investigators involved in the dating project, the Siloam Tunnel is the first major Biblical structure to be radiocarbon dated.

Frumkin, a BAR contributor, and his colleagues—Aryeh Shimron, of the Geological Survey of Israel, and Jeff Rosenbaum, of Reading University, in England, published their findings in the September 11, 2003 issue of the science journal Nature.

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