Second Temple Ritual Bath Uncovered in Jerusalem

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists uncovered a rare mikveh (ritual bath) from the late Second Temple period.

"Numerous ritual baths have been excavated in Jerusalem in recent years, but the water supply system that we exposed in this excavation is unique and unusual," said excavation director Binyamin Strochan.

"The ritual bath consists of an underground chamber entered by way of steps. The mikveh received the rainwater from three collecting basins that were hewn on the roof of the bath, and the pure water was conveyed inside the chamber through channels," he continued.

"The ritual baths known until now usually consist of a closed cavity that was supplied with rainwater conveyed from a small rock-cut pool located nearby. The complex that was exposed at this time is a more sophisticated and intricate system," he explained.

"The bath was apparently associated with a settlement that was situated near the Second Temple period. Presumably, due to the rainfall regime and arid conditions of the region, the inhabitants sought special techniques that would make it possible to store every drop of water," Strochan said.

The team discovered the mikveh during a pre-construction dig in Kiryat Menachem, a Jerusalem neighborhood near the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.

By law, the IAA must perform a pre-construction excavation before any kind of new construction can begin in Israel.

Jerusalem district archaeologist Amit Re'em said "the neighborhood community has expressed great interest in the conservation of the mikveh. The Israel Antiquities Authority and the Moriah Company are working to make this delightful treasure a site for the benefit of the residents and visitors."

The IAA said during the 20th century, the mikveh was cleaned and a round opening cut in the ceiling so it could be used as a cistern.

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