Bible and archaeology news
Israeli archaeologists recently uncovered a mikveh (a Jewish ritual bath) in Jerusalem’s Qiryat Menachem neighborhood that dates back to the Second Temple period (538 B.C.E–70 C.E.). Small pools used for ritual cleansing, known as mikva’ot (singular, mikveh), were built to strict specifications: According to the Mishnah, the earliest rabbinic code of law, they must be of a certain size and filled with “living” water—water that has not been transferred from a vessel but has flowed directly into the bath from a river, spring or rainwater collector.
The recently-discovered Jerusalem mikveh features a unique water supply system designed to preserve every possible drop of rainwater collected in the arid Jerusalem environment. Water ran into the mikveh from three collecting basins (otzar) hewn out of the rock on the mikveh’s roof, following kashrut laws dictating that the water be carried in naturally and without human contact. In addition, the mikveh was paved with plaster, following the Jewish law that water from the mikveh not seep into the earth.
While the area was used for quarrying after the mikveh went out of use, Jerusalem archaeologists are working with the neighboring community and the Israel Antiquities Authority to preserve the site of this unique Second Temple period mikveh.
BAS Library Members: Immerse yourself in “the great mikveh debate”:
Ronny Reich, “The Great Mikveh Debate,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1993.
Hanan Eshel, “The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs? They’re Not Ritual Baths,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.
Eric M. Meyers, “The Pools of Sepphoris: Ritual Baths or Bathtubs? Yes, They Are,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2000.
Ronny Reich, “They Are Ritual Baths,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2002.
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