Bet Shemesh Dig Uncovers 2,000-Year-Old Jewish Settlement

Bible and archaeology news

During the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, also known as the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome (132–135 C.E.), Jewish rebels hid from the Romans in caves and underground complexes throughout Judea. Such hiding refuges were recently discovered at a 2,000-year-old Jewish settlement in the neighborhood of Ramat Bet Shemesh, 19 miles west of Jerusalem in Israel. Excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) with funding from the Ministry of Construction and Housing uncovered eight mikva’ot (Jewish ritual baths), cisterns and a complex of underground hiding refuges. The ancient name of the settlement is unknown.


View from the inside of one of the mikva’ot at Bet Shemesh. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The settlement’s extraordinary significance lies in its imposing array of private ritual baths, which were incorporated in the residential buildings,” said IAA excavation directors Sarah Hirshberg, Shua Kisilevitz and Sarah Levevi-Eilat in a press release. “Each household had its own ritual bath and a cistern. Some of the baths uncovered are simple, and others are more complex and include an otzar, or collecting basin, into which the rainwater would drain. It is interesting to note that the local inhabitants adhered strictly to the rules regarding purity and impurity.”

Mikva’ot were rock-hewn immersion pools that observant Jews used to become ritually pure in accordance with Jewish religious law (halakhah).

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Under the ancient settlement in the complex of hiding refuges, archaeologists discovered ceramic jars and cooking pots that may have been used by the Bar-Kokhba rebels. Additionally, breaches in some of the cisterns suggest those in hiding were furtively tapping into the water supply.


Inside the refuges, jars and cooking pots were discovered. These may have been used by Bar-Kokhba rebels. Photo: Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to Dr. Amit Shadman, the IAA district archaeologist for Judah, the ancient settlement will be integrated into the new neighborhood planned for Ramat Bet Shemesh.

“In consultation with the Ministry of Construction and Housing, we have decided that the excavations will be followed by the site’s preservation and development as an archaeological site in the heart of the new neighborhood,” said Shadman.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

2,000-Year-Old Road Unearthed in Bet Shemesh

Inscription Reveals Governor of Judea Before the Bar-Kokhba Revolt

Archaeologists Reveal a Desecrated Iron Age Temple at Beth-Shemesh

Jewish Purification: Stone Vessel Workshop Discovered in Galilee


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