A 2,000-year-old Jewish ritual bath (mikvah) was discovered under a Jerusalem home’s living room floor during renovations of the structure, shedding light on both early Christianity and the Jewish communities of the Second Temple Period.
The bath, in accordance with Jewish laws of purity, was rock-hewn and meticulously plastered. It was 11.48 feet long, 7.87 feet wide, and 5.9 feet deep, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The mikvah contains a staircase leading to the bottom of the immersion pool, with pottery vessels dating to the Second Temple Period and traces of fire that might suggest evidence of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans from 66-70 CE.
The house’s owners, who were initially hesitant to involve the IAA over fear of consequences to their home, were awarded with an IAA certificate of appreciation.
“Such instances of finding antiquities beneath a private home can happen only in Israel and Jerusalem in particular,” said Amit Re’em, IAA’s Jerusalem District archaeologist.
While the discovery of the mikvah is significant in its own right, it also sheds light on early Christianity during the Second Temple Period.
“Ein Kerem 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 Jesusm,” said Re’em.
The archaeologist added, “The discovery of the ritual bath reinforces the hypothesis there was a Jewish settlement from the time of the Second Temple located in the region of what is today ‘Ein Kerem.’”