Biblical Archaeology Review 25:6, November/December 1999
Rewriting Jerusalem History

I Climbed Warren’s Shaft (But Joab Never Did)

By Hershel Shanks

Dangling on a rope ladder in a subterranean shaft, 30 feet below the City of David, the oldest part of Jerusalem, and 45 feet above the bottom of the shaft, I wondered whether I was being foolhardy. At 69, should I really be trying to re-enact the hypothesized entry into Jerusalem of Joab, King David’s general, that enabled the Israelites to capture the city?

But I threw caution to the winds. After all, my 37-year-old companion, Eli Shukron, was at the bottom of the shaft, prepared to catch me if I fell.

Archaeologists Shukron and Ronny Reich, who are excavating this area of Jerusalem, insist that the shaft was never used to draw water (despite a near-universal belief, until now, that it was) and that Joab did not penetrate the city through this shaft. Ever since 1867, when the British explorer and engineer Charles Warren (later Sir Charles Warren), working for the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund, discovered the 52-foot vertical shaft that now bears his name, Warren’s Shaft has been a popular candidate for the Biblical tsinnor (2 Samuel 5:8)—often translated as watershaft—that Joab supposedly climbed up to enter the city, much to the surprise of its Canaanite-Jebusite residents.a

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