Shalom Life | July 31, 2015

2000-Year-Old Mikveh Found Under Jerusalem Home

The ritual bath was found under a living room during home renovations

By: B. Shane Morganstein

Published: July 1st, 2015 in News » Israel

2000-Year-Old Mikveh Found Under Jerusalem Home

Photo: Mikveh found underneath Jerusalem home

Credit: Asaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority


A 2000-year-old mikveh (ritual bath) was discovered beneath a family’s home in Jerusalem. The family, in the middle of renovating their home, found the bath after digging out their living room floor in Jerusalem’s south-west Ein Kerem neighbourhood.

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced the find on Wednesday, after investigating and dating the bath to almost 2000 years ago. IAA Jerusalem’s District Archaeologist Amit Re’em expressed his amazement after learning that a pair of wooden doors under the family’s rug in the middle of the living room was concealing the ancient site.

“Such instances of finding antiquities beneath a private home can happen only in Israel, and Jerusalem in particular,” began Re’em. “Beyond the excitement and the unusual story of the discovery of the mikve, its exposure is of archaeological importance.”

According to Re’em, Ein Kerem holds religious significance in Christianity, due to its identification with the ancient city of Judah, the location of John the Baptist’s birth an where his mother Elizabeth met with Mary, mother of Jesus.

“Despite these identifications, the archaeological remains in Ein Kerem and the surrounding area – which are related to the time when these events transpired during the Second Temple period – are few and fragmented,” Re’em explained.

“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.”

The mikveh, made of rock and discovered fully intact, measured 3.5 meters in length, 2.3 meters in width, and 1.8 meters deep, and is “meticulously plastered according to the laws of purity appearing in the halacha,” said Re’em.

“A staircase leads to the bottom of the immersion pool, and pottery vessel dating to the time of the Second Temple (1st century CE), and traces of fire that might constitute evidence of the destruction of 66-70 CE, were discovered inside the bath,” added Re’em in reference to the site’s archaeological significance.

“In addition, fragments of stone vessels were found, which were common during the Second Temple period because stone cannot be contaminated and remains pure.”

The owners of the home were honoured Wednesday with a certificate of appreciation by the IAA for exhibiting good citizenship, reporting the discovery, and contributing to the country’s ongoing archaeological discoveries.

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