This is by far the most complex and ambitious project undertaken by Dr. Oren Gutfeld to date, and almost brings to mind an Indiana Jones film! The site, excavated by Dr. Gutfeld, is situated in the northern Judean Desert, at the foot of the ancient Hyrcania fortress. It comprises two hewn tunnels dating to the Second Temple period, descending at a fifty-degree incline for a combined distance of more than 200 meters. In order to remove the huge amounts of earth that packed the tunnels, each measuring approximately 1 meter high and 2 meters wide, an electric winch was installed on a cliff facing each entrance, capable of pulling up some twenty filled sandbags. The excavators also had to contend with issues of lighting, communication, and oxygen supply – all which were met with creative solutions.
Installing the electric winch
The location of the site in the heart of the desert, far removed from any settlement and any source of water or electricity, resulted in numerous logistical challenges, not least regarding transportation to and from the site of both personnel and equipment. Here, too, a field camp was set up, with tents, water supply and even a kitchen.
Working inside the tunnel