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Archaeology in Israel: Message in the Mikveh

(August 2015)

While working on a new pre-school in Jerusalem, construction crews discovered a mikveh, or ritual bathhouse, dating back to the first century C.E. A press release from the Israeli Antiquities Authority praised the “very significant discovery,” calling it “rare and unique and most intriguing.” The walls of the ritual bath were extremely well preserved, and vibrantly decorated with images of palm trees, boats, and other various symbols. An analysis of the materials revealed that the walls of the bath had been treated with plaster, which helped keep the site looking so well.

Mysterious inscriptions in cursive Hebrew script and the Aramaic language covered the walls of the mikveh; some carved and others scrawled in mud and soot. Thanks to the writings archaeologists were able to narrow down the estimated dates that the mikveh was in use, but, “the inscriptions are a mystery,” according a member of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The images and inscriptions were removed from the site, as the Antiquities Authority did not want to damage the material in any way.

Source: Lorenzi, Rozella. “Mysterious message found in 2,000 year old ritual bath in Jerusalem,” Discovery (August 5, 2015)