Ancient ritual bath found beneath a home in Jerusalem
A 2,000-year-old ritual bath, known as a mikve, was found underneath a family’s living room floor in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, while they were undertaking renovations.
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that the rock-hewn mikve (also spelt mikvah) is fully intact and measures 3.5 meters (11.5ft) by 2.4 meters (7.8ft), and with a depth of 1.8 meters (5.9ft).
IAA’s Jerusalem District Archeologist, Amit Re’em, said that the bath had been carefully plastered according to the laws of purity set out in the Halacha, the collective body of Jewish religious laws derived from the Written and Oral Torah.
“A staircase leads to the bottom of the immersion pool, and pottery vessels dating to the time of the Second Temple (first century CE), and traces of fire that might constitute evidence of the destruction of 66-70 CE, were discovered inside the bath,” he added. “In addition, fragments of stone vessels were found, which were common during the Second Temple period because stone cannot be contaminated and remains pure.”
In Judaism, full immersion in a mikve is used to obtain ritual purity. Several biblical regulations stipulate that immersion in the ritual bath should take place after impure incidents have occurred and before entering a temple. A woman must also enter the mikve after her menstrual period or childbirth before resuming marital relations.
Pool of a medieval mikveh in Speyer, dating back to 1128. (Wikimedia Commons)
JPost reports that the historically important discovery was made while the homeowners, Tal and Oriya, were carrying out renovations. They subsequently reported the findings to the IAA, who carried out a thorough excavation of the mikveh.
“The owners of the home were awarded a certificate of appreciation by the IAA for exhibiting good citizenship for reporting the discovery, and contributing to the country’s ongoing archeological discoveries,” reports JPost.
The ancient bath is now concealed below a pair of wooden doors beneath a rug in the family home.
The ancient bath is concealed beneath a pair of wooden doors in the family living room. Credit: Asaf Peretz, IAA.
IAA archeologist, Amit Re’em said 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 Kerem.”
He also rather arrogantly asserted that “such instances of finding antiquities beneath a private home can happen only in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular.” Of course, he is quite mistaken as some spectacular findings have been made beneath family homes throughout the world.
In 2014, an ancient underground city was found beneath a house in Anatolia, Turkey; in January, 2015, it was announced that parts of the causeway of the Great Pyramid of Giza was found beneath a home in the village of El Haraneya; and in April, 2015, an Italian man announced his finding of centuries of history in his basement while fixing a toilet, including tombs, ossuaries, secret tunnels used by religious orders, frescoes, an altar and thousands more artifacts.
Featured image: A photo of the well preserved rock-hewn mikve. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)