Unique Mikveh From Bayis Sheini Period Uncovered

(Top and bottom) The site of a newly excavated mikveh in the Kiryat Menachem quarter of Yerushalayim. (Kuvien Images)
(Top and bottom) The site of a newly excavated mikveh in the Kiryat Menachem quarter of Yerushalayim. (Kuvien Images)

YERUSHALAYIM - “Numerous ritual baths have been excavated in Yerushalayim in recent years, but the water supply system that we exposed in this excavation is unique,” said Benyamin Storchan, director of this latest excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“The mikveh consists of an underground chamber entered by way of steps. The mikveh received the rainwater from three collecting basins [otzar] that were hewn on the roof of the bath, and the pure water was conveyed inside the chamber through channels.

“The mikva’os known until now usually consist of a closed cavity that was supplied with rainwater conveyed from a small rock-cut pool located nearby. The complex that was exposed at this time is a more sophisticated and intricate system.

“The mikveh was apparently associated with a settlement that was situated there in the Bayis Sheini period. Presumably, due to the arid conditions of the region, the inhabitants sought special techniques that would make it possible to store every drop of water. It is interesting to note that the mikveh conforms to halachah.”

Located in a picturesque valley where there are ancient agricultural installations, the mikveh was uncovered a short distance from the houses in the Kiryat Menachem quarter.

After the mikveh went out of use, the place served as a quarry and the channels filled up with earth. During the twentieth century the immersion chamber was cleaned, a round opening was breached in its ceiling, and it was used as a cistern.