JERUSALEM (JTA) – An ancient mikvah covered in paintings and inscriptions was discovered in Jerusalem during a routine archaeological inspection at the construction site of a new nursery school.
The nursery school was being constructed in the upscale Arnona neighbourhood of southern Jerusalem when the mikvah dating to the Second Temple period was discovered two months ago, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.
The mikvah included an anteroom flanked by benches, which led to the ritual bath. A winepress was excavated alongside the ritual bath.
The walls of the mikvah were treated with ancient plaster and decorated with numerous wall paintings and inscriptions, written in mud, soot and incising, according to the Authority. The inscriptions are Aramaic and written in cursive Hebrew script, which was customary at the end of the Second Temple period. Among the symbols are a boat, palm trees and various plant species, and possibly a menorah.
It is not known what the inscriptions say, though it is believed that some are names.
“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, excavation directors, in a statement.
The wall paintings, which are so sensitive that their exposure to air causes damage, were treated at the site and then removed and transferred to the conservation laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority for further treatment.