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2,000-year-old mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) with mysterious inscriptions found in Jerusalem


Ritual bath from Second Temple period found during construction of nursery school; archaeologists find Aramaic writing on wall, drawings of boat, palm trees and possibly a menorah.

A 2,000-year-old mikveh (ritual bath) containing a rare ancient message encoded in symbols and inscriptions was discovered two months ago during construction work for a nursery school in Jerusalem.

The mikveh, dating to the time of the Second Temple, was found in an underground cave during a routine Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspection of the construction site. An anteroom, flanked by benches, led to the bath.

The walls of the mikveh were treated with ancient plaster and were adorned with numerous wall paintings and inscriptions, written in mud, soot and incising.

6214116099297640360noThe inscriptions on the mikveh walls (Photo: Shai Halevy, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

Among the symbols drawn on the wall are a boat, palm trees and various plant species, and possibly even a menorah. Those symbols are all common elements in visual arts in the Second Temple period.

The inscriptions are Aramaic and written in cursive Hebrew script, which was customary at the end of the Second Temple period.

“There is no doubt that this is a very significant discovery,” said excavation directors Royee Greenwald and Alexander Wiegmann. “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.”


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