Home renovations always bring a few unexpected twists and turns. But imagine the surprise of Jerusalem’s Shimshoni family when, in the midst of their renovations, they discovered a perfectly preserved 2,000-year-old ritual bath under their living room!
Last week the Israel Antiquities Authority finished excavating the subterranean bath, which archaeologist Amit Reem said Wednesday was “a significant find” and may have belonged to a private home in a first century Jewish village.
The ritual bath adheres to Jewish halachic requirements and measures 1.8 meters (5 feet, 11 inches) deep, 3.5 meters long and 2.4 meters wide.
More intriguingly, it lends some support to Christian tradition linking Ein Kerem, today a quaint neighborhood clinging to a hill on Jerusalem’s southwestern edge, with the birthplace of John the Baptist.
Starting in the 6th century, Christians began associating the “town in the hill country of Judea” mentioned in the Book of Luke as the birthplace of John the Baptist, the mentor of Jesus, with Ein Kerem. The village is home to the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist, dedicated to his birthplace.