2,000 year-old mikvah discovered during excavation in Israel
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2,000 year-old mikvah discovered during excavation in Israel

The directors of the dig say the discovery changes what was previously known about Jewish life in Roman-ruled Palestine in the Second Temple period.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

The farm with the ritual bath (lower right). Photo: Abd Ibrahim/Israel Antiquities Authority.
The farm with the ritual bath (lower right). Photo: Abd Ibrahim/Israel Antiquities Authority.

An extraordinary salvage operation has taken place in Israel’s Lower Galilee with the removal of a 2,000 year-old mikvah, or ritual bath, from the site so that it can go on display to the public. 

The finding of the mikvah and its subsequent removal took place under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority, which was carrying out a last dig before the construction of a major road interchange.

The excavation was carried out by workers from the village of Kfar Manda, students on pre-army programmes, and local volunteers, including people from Kibbutz Hannaton.

The directors of the dig, Abd Elghani Ibrahim and Dr Walid Atrash, say the discovery of the mikvah changes what was previously known about Jewish life in Roman-ruled Palestine in the Second Temple period.

The Jews who used the mikvah lived and worked on farmsteads in the Galilee, previously undiscovered. Archaeologists believe that a huge earthquake about 1700 years ago wiped out the farmstead, and that 1400 years ago the site was finally abandoned.

It became apparent during the excavations that it was not possible to leave the mikvah in place because of the impending road construction. Instead, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the kibbutz, co-operated on a crowd-funding campaign to move the mikvah so that it could go on display next to Kibbutz Hannaton’s own, functioning mikvah.

The ancient mikvah is said to weigh 57 tons. It was carefully cut from the bedrock and placed in a steel cage in order to move it to the kibbutz — an operation which was carried out to the cheers of local residents.

 

 

 

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