(Assaf Peretz/IAA)
Ritual bath jerusalem IAA

The latest archaeological find in Jerusalem, a meticulously plastered ritual bath, provides evidence of Jewish settlement during the Second Temple period.

Ritual bath jerusalem IAA

Steps leading to the ritual bath. (Assaf Peretz/IAA)

An ancient, 2,000-year-old ritual bath (mikvah) was discovered by chance below a living room floor during home renovations carried out in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem, Israel’s Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced Wednesday.

IAA archaeologists were amazed to discover that a pair of wooden doors beneath a stylized rug in the middle of a pleasant family living room concealed an ancient ritual bath. The homeowners were awarded a certificate of appreciation by the IAA for exhibiting good citizenship in that they reported the discovery of the mikvah and thereby contributed to the study of the Land of Israel.

The ritual bath, which remains complete and is quite large, is rock-hewn and meticulously plastered according to the Jewish religious laws of purity. A staircase leads to the bottom of the immersion pool. Pottery vessels dating to the end of the Second Temple era, the first century CE, and traces of fire that might constitute evidence of the destruction that took place in 66-70 CE were discovered inside.

In addition, fragments of stone vessels were found. These were common during the Second Temple period because stone cannot be ritually contaminated and remains spiritually pure.

Amit Re’em, a Jerusalem District archaeologist, said that “such instances of finding antiquities beneath a private home can happen only in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular. Beyond the excitement and the unusual story of the discovery of the mikvah, its exposure is of archaeological importance. Ein Karem is considered a place sacred to Christianity in light of its identification with ‘a city of Judah’ – the place where, according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born and where his pregnant mother Elisabeth met with Mary, mother of Jesus. Despite these identifications, the archaeological remains in Ein Karem and the surrounding area, which are related to the time when these events transpired (the Second Temple period), are few and fragmented. The discovery of the ritual bath reinforces the hypothesis [that] there was a Jewish settlement from the time of the Second Temple located in the region of what is today Ein Karem.”

Ein Kerem

A View of Ein Karem neighborhood in Jerusalem. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

The homeowners said they were initially uncertain regarding the importance of the discovery and had hesitated to contact the IAA “because of the consequences we believed would be involved in doing so.”

“At the same time, we had a strong feeling that what was situated beneath the floor of our house is a find of historical value and our sense of civic and public duty clinched it for us,” they said. “We felt that this find deserves to be seen and properly documented. We contacted the IAA on our own initiative in order that they would complete the excavation and the task of documenting the discovery. Representatives of the IAA arrived, and together we cleaned the mikvah.”

They were overjoyed by the findings and by the cooperation with the IAA.

By: United with Israel Staff

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