Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 62.djvu/550

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

A VISIT TO THE QUARRY-CAVES OF JERUSALEM.
By CHARLES A. WHITE,

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION.

THE hill-country of Judea consists chiefly of one great anticlinal fold of a thick series of Upper Cretaceous strata, mostly limestones, the axis of the fold having a nearly due north and south trend. This series rises from beneath the slightly elevated and comparatively narrow Tertiary plain which borders the Mediterranean Sea, is broken by erosion into rugged hills and deep ravines, reaches, even in its present condition of great denudation, an elevation of about 2,500 feet, and then dips eastward. The angle of dip being greater upon the eastern than upon the western side of the axis, the whole series of strata is carried beneath the surface of the Dead Sea, which is only ten or twelve miles east of the axis in a straight line and more than 1,200 feet below ocean level. East of the western shore of the Dead Sea the geological structure is complicated by faults, but that matter need not be discussed. Jerusalem is situated upon the east side of, but very near to, the axis, and because of the presence of the great depression in the land surface called the 'Ghor' one gets good views from the hilltops that rise around the city upon and near the axis. Within range of distinct vision are the Wilderness of Judea, the Hills of Edom, and especially the Mountains of Moab with the Dead Sea and the lower end of the Jordan valley lying near their base. The great series of strata thus folded, consisting, as it does, largely of compact limestone, has furnished only a scanty, although fertile, soil by the natural process of disintegration, and that memorable land is, therefore, preeminently a region of stony ground.

The lithological character of those strata is favorable for the production of natural caves, and many such exist there as is well known from references to them in both sacred and profane history. All the drainage lines of the region, however, being short and most of them declivitous, none of those caves is of large size compared with the great caverns of other regions. Many of those small Judean caves have been artificially enlarged and adapted to use as store-houses, stables, tombs and even as human dwellings. Numerous rock excavations which are wholly artificial have also been made from time immemorial and for various purposes, but I shall refer only to those which have resulted from the quarrying of stone for building purposes, and