Israeli archaeologists uncover 2nd Temple-era mikvah with puzzling drawings

The Second Temple-era mikvah uncovered by Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority.

( Israeli archaeologists uncovered a Second Temple-era mikvah (ritual bath) in Jerusalem with puzzling drawings and inscriptions during the construction for two nursery schools. 

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the walls of the mikvah were covered in ancient plaster and adorned with numerous wall paintings and inscriptions, written in both Aramaic and cursive Hebrew script. Among the paintings were a boat, palm trees, and various plant species, and possibly a menorah.

“There is no doubt that this is a very significant discovery. Such a concentration of inscriptions and symbols from the Second Temple period at one archaeological site, and in such a state of preservation, is rare and unique and most intriguing,” said Royee Greenwald and Alexander Wiegmann, who directed the excavation on behalf of the IAA. 

The archaeologists also said they were puzzled by the paintings and inscriptions, unsure why they were painted inside of a ritual bath and who was responsible for them. They speculated that they could have been drawn as graffiti, to convey a deep religious or spiritual message and even perhaps a cry for help as a result of a traumatic event like the destruction of the Second Temple.  

“On the one hand the symbols can be interpreted as secular, and on the other as symbols of religious significance and deep spirituality,” the archaeologists said.

Posted on August 5, 2015 .