2,000-year-old Mikveh found in Lower Galilee

The farmstead with ritual bath shows that Jews lived in rural areas during the Second Temple period

Galilee Farm with Mikveh

2,000-year-old Galilee farm with ritual bath (lower right). Photo: Abd Ibrahim, IAA

An archaeological salvage dig found the remains of a Jewish farmstead from the Second Temple period, around the time of Jesus. Researchers are confident the farmstead was built by Jews because it includes a Mikveh, a bath used for ritual immersion in Jewish tradition.

Abd Elghani Ibrahim and Dr. Walid Atrash, Directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, explains, “the discovery of the mikveh in the farmstead changes what we knew about the lifestyle of the Jews in the Second Temple period. Until now we hadn’t discovered Jewish farms in the Galilee. It was considered that the Jews in the Roman period didn’t live in farms outside the villages or towns.

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The dig was undertaken because a highway interchange is being built at the Hamovil junction in the Lower Galilee. Led by Ibrahim and Atrash from the IAA, workers included residents of Kfar Manda and residents of the Hannaton Kibbutz. The 57-ton Mikveh is being moved to another location for eventual display. Read the press release.

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Machaerus: A Palace-Fortress with Multiple Mikva’ot by Győző Vörös.  Several mikva’ot (Jewish ritual baths) have been uncovered at Machaerus, the palace-fortress on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea where Salome danced and John the Baptist was beheaded. Archaeologist Győző Vörös takes readers on a journey through past and current archaeological excavations that have resulted in the discovery of these ritual baths.

Social Conflict in Ancient Galilee by Sarah E. Rollens.  Tiberius reigned as Roman emperor from 14 to 37 C.E., and as far as Tacitus was concerned, nothing remarkable happened in the land inhabited by the Jews during this period. Yet when some biblical scholars describe this period—that is, the period that saw the rise of the public teaching of Jesus of Nazareth—they depict a rural population simmering with hostility and resentment directed at local and imperial political rulers of the region. This instability among the predominantly peasant population eventually led to a series of rebellions and other political protests. Thus the backdrop of the Jesus movement was persistent conflict, stemming from the inherent social and economic inequality that characterized the Roman Empire as a whole, carrying over into the rural space of ancient Galilee that was situated on the empire’s eastern edge.

How Jewish Was Jesus’ Galilee by Mark Chancey.  The pendulum is beginning to swing back again. Before 20th-century archaeologists began uncovering it, Jesus’ Galilee was generally considered rural Jewish terrain. Then archaeologists made some astounding finds. Excavations at Sepphoris, less than 4 miles from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, revealed inscriptions in Greek, Roman architecture and some breathtaking Greco-Roman art, including the famous mosaic dubbed by excavator Carol Meyers the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” The “Mona Lisa” was part of a larger mosaic depicting a symposium (a dinner with ample alcohol) with the mythological hero Hercules and the god of wine, Dionysus, as guests.

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