Secret Mikveh Discovered Under a Living Room Floor

Bible and archaeology news


A family in Jerusalem’s ‘Ein Kerem neighborhood recently discovered an ancient mikveh underneath their floorboards. Photo: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority.

What’s underneath your living room floor? The answer for one Jerusalem family is pretty incredible: a 2,000-year-old mikveh (Jewish ritual bath)!

The Israel Antiquities Authority recently announced the discovery: When a family in Jerusalem’s ‘Ein Kerem neighborhood began renovating their living room, they found more than they had bargained for. They uncovered a complete mikveh, approximately 11.5 feet long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet deep, which is now accessible through wooden doors in their living room floor. Carved from stone and plastered, the mikveh has steps leading to the bottom of the pool etched into it. Second Temple-period pottery and fragments of stone vessels were uncovered inside the mikveh.

The discovery establishes a Jewish connection in the area during the Second Temple period. This is especially significant to Christian tradition that identifies ‘Ein Kerem with “a city of Judah” mentioned in Luke 1:39 as the place where Mary the mother of Jesus met with her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, while they were both pregnant. It is also regarded as the birthplace of John the Baptist.

The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and ancient practices—from dining to makeup—throughout the Mediterranean world.

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Siloam Pool: Where Jesus Healed the Blind Man

The Bethesda Pool, Site of One of Jesus’ Miracles

Mikveh Discovery Highlights Ritual Bathing in Second Temple Period Jerusalem


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  • Kurt says

    Jewish Ritual Bathing—A Forerunner of Baptism?
    JOHN THE BAPTIZER preached “baptism in symbol of repentance.” Jesus too commanded his followers to make disciples and to baptize them.—Mark 1:4; Matthew 28:19.

    The Bible indicates that Christian baptism requires complete immersion in water. “Similar rites,” claims the book Jesus and His World, “can be observed in many religions, past and present, across geographical and cultural boundaries.” The book asserts that “the origins of Christian baptism . . . are found in Judaism.” How sound is this claim?

    Jewish Ritual Bathing Pools

    Archaeologists digging close to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount have discovered nearly 100 ritual baths, or bathing pools, dating to the first century B.C.E. and the first century C.E. A synagogue inscription from the second or third century C.E. speaks of such baths being provided for “visitors who need them.” Other pools have been found in the quarter of Jerusalem that was occupied by wealthy and priestly families; nearly every house had its own private ritual bath.

    The baths were rectangular tanks hewed out of rock or dug into the earth and lined with brick or stone. They were plastered to prevent leaks. Most measured about six feet by nine feet [1.8 x 2.7 m]. Conduits channeled rainwater into the tanks. The water was at least four feet [1.2 m] deep so as to permit complete immersion by crouching. The steps leading down into the water were sometimes divided by a low partition wall. It is thought that one side of the steps was used to enter the purifying bath, when the bather was unclean, and the other side to exit, to avoid any contamination.The baths were used in connection with Jewish ritual purity. What did this entail?Read more:

  • DENNIS says

    I’m curious as to why the house was originally allowed to be built over the site at all. Nothing is reported as to when the house was built; perhaps it was pre-July 1948?

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