Biblical Archaeology Review 41:6, November/December 2015

Beneath the Living Room Floor

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)!

Last July, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the discovery: When a family in the ‘Ein Kerem neighborhood near Jerusalem 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 covered with hydraulic plaster, the mikveh has steps leading to the bottom of the pool. Second Temple-period pottery and fragments of stone vessels, which are not subject to impurity under Jewish law, 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.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.