JERUSALEM, Israel - Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists uncovered a 2,000-year-old mikveh (ritual bath) in the ongoing excavation of the Western Wall tunnels.
"[The mikveh] is one of the most magnificent structures from the Second Temple period ever to be uncovered," an IAA press release stated on Wednesday.
Archaeologists excavating one of three halls accessed from inside the Western Wall Tunnel uncovered the structure about 65 feet from the Kotel (Western Wall).
"It is interesting to see that in the middle of the first century CE [Common Era], they began making changes in this magnificent structure," said Alexander Onn, who is heading up the dig on behalf of the IAA.
"It seems that the city of Jerusalem grew in this period and it became necessary to provide for the increased ritual bathing needs of the pilgrims who came to the Temple in large numbers, especially during the three pilgrimage festivals [Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot]," Onn said.
"Immersing oneself in the mikveh and maintaining ritual purity were an inseparable part of the Jewish way of life in this period…especially in the region of the Temple," he said.
The excavation is being conducted in cooperation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.