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Featured image: Graffiti, including writing and drawings, were daubed and carved onto the walls of a mikvah in Jerusalem from about 2,000 years ago. (Shai Halevy, of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Ancient Ritual Bath Found in Jerusalem with Aramaic Graffiti on it

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Graffiti daubed in mud and ashes on a ritual bath from the Second Temple era in Jerusalem have been excavated in the course of preparations for construction of a school. Whenever construction projects are undertaken in Israel, exploratory digs must be done to determine whether there are ancient or historical ruins in the area. The mikvah (also called mikveh) was found in a cave.

The graffiti inscriptions appear to have been written in Aramaic, though archaeologists studying the site say it is hard to read them.

“Examples of written Aramaic from the time of the Second Temple are very rare,” reports Haaretz . “The use of Aramaic on the walls suggests that it was the common language of the time, which could strengthen the argument that Jesus spoke Aramaic, as opposed to Hebrew.

“Ritual baths from that period are not rare in the Holy Land, but they don't usually feature time capsules in the form of writing and symbols. The space is highly unusual in featuring inscriptions in ancient Aramaic – albeit pretty much incomprehensible—on the plastered walls.”

In Jean Fouquet's painting, Herod the Great enters Jerusalem. Behind him is the Second Temple with people in a ritual bath before it. (Wikimedia Commnos)

In Jean Fouquet's painting, Herod the Great enters Jerusalem. Behind him is the Second Temple with people in a ritual bath before it. (Wikimedia Commnos)

In addition to the writing, the graffiti artists scratched and daubed dozens of images, including palm trees, plant species, a boat and what archaeologists tentatively identified as a menorah.

This is at least the second finding of a mikvah from about 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem in the past month. As Ancient Origins reported in July, a family had discovered a mikvah underneath their living room floor years ago but hesitated to call in the Israel Antiquities Authority to investigate. Out of a sense of civic duty they finally did so and it was determined that ritual bath too was from the Second Temple era.

Stairs lead down to the mikvah underneath a Jerusalem family's living room floor. That bath, too, dates to the era of the Second Temple. (Assaf Peretz of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Stairs lead down to the mikvah underneath a Jerusalem family's living room floor. That bath, too, dates to the era of the Second Temple. ( Assaf Peretz of the Israel Antiquities Authority )

As to the most recent mikvah find, excavation directors Alexander Wiegmann and Royee Greenwald said, “Such a concentration of inscriptions and symbols from the Second Temple period at one archaeological site, and in such a state of preservation, is rare and unique and most intriguing.”

The inscriptions are hard to read, but some might be names, including Cohen. Another instance looks like the word “avad,” or “served” in English, as in served the Lord, said Hagai Misgav of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Archaeologists removed the plaster upon which the graffiti were written and sealed it away from the elements because they had begun to fade as soon as they were exposed to the air. A staircase led to the underground bath, and excavators also found a winepress alongside it.

Mikvahs were important to the Hebrew people. Mikvah.org said the rabbis who wrote the Talmud ruled that if a community had neither a mikvah nor a synagogue, the mikvah would be built first.

Mikvahs are built in accordance with Jewish law. The waters of the mikvah are to be from a natural source such as rainwater or a spring so they aren't touched by human hands before use. Historically, the mikvah was used by the Jewish high priest on Yom Kippur at the Temple in Jerusalem.

“In Temple times, the priests as well as each Jew who wished entry into the House of God had first to immerse in a mikvah,” says Chabad.org.

Now mikvahs are mostly used by women seven days after their menstrual cycles ends, before they may reunite with their husbands in the marriage bed; by men on their wedding day; and by men before Yom Kippur.

Jewish people consider lakes, seas, springs and rivers mikvahs in their purest form, says Chabad.org .

The Second Temple era lasted from 349 BC to 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed it. The Second Temple is called the fulfillment of a Biblical prophecy by Jeremiah. There is a mystical Third Temple prophesied in the Bible by Ezekiel, which he said is God's eternal dwelling place on the Temple Mount. The First Temple was destroyed in 587 BC by forces under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had besieged Jerusalem.

Featured image: Graffiti, including writing and drawings, were daubed and carved onto the walls of a mikvah in Jerusalem from about 2,000 years ago. ( Shai Halevy, of the Israel Antiquities Authority )

By Mark Miller

 

Comments

I read both the article and comments with interest. Actually Aramaic was a Persian dialect used mostly by traders. It was common in the Middle East during the time of Christ and is still spoken in some areas. I read AO in The USA

Thank you Mark for your respons. I really like to read your contributions to Ancient Origins because you have a very clear, professional style of writing and you can bring across very well what the findings you write about are about. But I can't understand that you don't have a more objective approach when it comes down to religion, more specific Christianity.
What I understand is that Ancient Origins is an Australian site. But I read it in Europe - The Netherlands. And Ancient Origins is probably read all over the world. And probably not only by Christians. I think - maybe - you should be more aware of that. (I was raised as a Roman Catholic but I'm not religious anymore. But I AM really interested among others in how religions and other philosophies came about.)
Don't you think that writing that 'Aramaic was the language that was spoken by many people in the time Jesus supposedly lived' and 'it was a political move of King Herod - maybe inspired by a prophecy in the Thorah - to build the second temple' looks more professional c.q. objective than writing that it 'was the language Jesus spoke' and it 'IS a prophecy that IS fulfilled'... ore something like that? I understand the point you make in your reaction to my comment but in my opinion you could be somewhat more critical or specific in your approach.
Anyway, I look forward to your coming blogs and posts and I hope you can forgive me when I react to statements that might come across somewhat as Christian promotions........
Kind regards.

Mark Miller's picture

Hi Jantje. I actually rewrote this story a bit based on your comments above. I am a Christian, but I do not take the Bible literally. When a writer speaks of prophecies, the reader should be aware the writer is not necessarily agreeing that the propehcy happened later as historical fact or that it will come to pass some day. But I can see where a reader might take my original text to mean that I am reporting Jeremiah as fact. As I said, it’s a prophecy. But I reworded it so I am not understood as reporting the Bible as fact.

I am not a historian. But neither am I using my freelancing position here to proselytize Christianity. I have been quite stern in my articles for Ancient Origins in my criticisms of the grave harm Christian authorities did to older European religions. If it helps at all, I think the Vatican is a snakepit still to this day.

And this article about the mikvah is about Judaism, not Christianity. I am not Jewish, either. I treat all religions with respect.

Mark Miller

 

 

 

"... which could strengthen the argument that Jesus spoke Aramaic ..."
There is no historical evidence that this 'Jesus' from the 'gospels' has really existed; the 'gospels' are fiction.
"... The Second Temple was fulfillment of a prophecy by Jeremiah ..." OMG!!! LOL!!! You c-a-n n-o-t be serious. That is hardly a historic approach to this subject. It was a political move of King Herod to build the temple... And yes... he probably had the idea from the Torah (or whatever that 'holy' book is called). But no historian would ever call that the 'fulfillment of a prophecy'. Dear Mark Miller, can you please clarify your status: are you a historian or an apologist for the Christian faith?

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