Byzantine fountain and pools discovered in Israel

Byzantine fountain and pools discovered in Israel
  • Archaeologists believe the Byzantine-era pools may have been the site of a storied baptism by St. Philip the Evangelist, as described in the New Testament  
  • It remains unclear why the pool was built, however researchers believe it may have been part of a royal estate and used for irrigation, washing or landscaping
  • Pictures of nymphs are inscribed on the fountain, making it the ‘first of it’s kind’ 
  • The site was uncovered between 2012 and 2016 but is now being made public 

Archaeologists in Jerusalem have uncovered a 1,500-year-old pool and fountain that could have been the site of one of Christianity’s most storied baptisms. 

The pool may have served as the site of a key story described in the New Testament, wherein St. Philip the Evangelist baptised and converted an Ethiopian man to Christianity, researchers say.  

It’s not truly clear what the pool was used for, however.

The artifacts are part of Jerusalem’s Ein Hanya, which is the second largest spring in the Judean Hills.

‘The most significant finding in the excavation is a large and impressive pool from the Byzantine era said Irina Zilberbod, the excavation director for the Israel Antiques Authority (IAA), according to the JewishPress.  

‘It’s difficult to recognize what the pool was used for — whether for irrigation, washing, landscaping or perhaps as part of baptismal ceremonies at the site,’ Zilberbod said. 

Archaeologists uncovered and excavated the site between 2012 and 2016, but it was only made available to the public.

The IAA believes the pools date back to between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D.  

The Byzantine-era pool drains into a network of channels that lead to a ‘magnificent’ nymphaeum, or fountain, that’s adorned with pictures of nymphs.

Scientists say the fountain is the first of it’s kind in Jerusalem. 

The pool may have been a part of a royal estate built at the time of the First Temple period, which began some 3,000 years ago, according to the scientists. 

The fountain at the Ein Hanya site was inscribed with images of nymphs, making it the 'first of its kind' in Jerusalem, according to scientists. It has since been restored to working condition
The fountain at the Ein Hanya site was inscribed with images of nymphs, making it the ‘first of its kind’ in Jerusalem, according to scientists. It has since been restored to working condition.

A 2,400-year-old column found at the site may indicate that the grounds were used as a royal estate. 

The pool served as the center of a ‘spacious’ complex in front of a church that once stood on the grounds.

A row of elaborate, roofed columns served as a path to a number of residential wings, Zilberbod said.

Specialists were able to restore the water system so that the fountain is in working condition.  

WHAT IS THE MYSTERIOUS ‘POOL’ DISCOVERED IN JERUSALEM?

A team of archaeologists from the  Israel Antiques Authority have been uncovering an ancient site near Jerusalem between 2012 and 2016.

The site is situated in Ein Hanya, which is the 2nd-largest spring in the Judean Hills.

Experts say Ein Hanya was also the site of a key story depicted in the New Testament, wherein St. Philip the Evangelist baptised and converted an Ethiopian man to Christianity.

It’s unclear what the pool was actually used for, but researchers say it may have been used for baptisms.

The pool dates back the Byzantine time, which occurred some 1,500 years ago.

Scientists believe the pool (pictured) may have been served as a place for irrigation, washing or landscaping. It may have also been the site of a storied baptism from the New Testament
Scientists believe the pool (pictured) may have been served as a place for irrigation, washing or landscaping. It may have also been the site of a storied baptism from the New Testament

But the pool appears to be the most Intresting discovery. 

Ein Hanya is widely believed to be the site where St. Philip baptised an Ethiopian man, marking the start of the Ethiopian church. 

It has not been determined that the pool was used for the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, but if it were, it would be at the center of ‘one of the key events in the spread of Christianity.’ 

‘Identifying the place where it occurred kept scholars busy for many generations and became a common motif in Christian art,’ said Yuval Baruch, the IAA’s Jerusalem district archaeologist, according to the Times of Israel

‘It’s no wonder part of [Ein Hanya] is still owned by Christians and is a centre of religious ceremonies, both for the Armenian church and the Ethiopian Church,’ Baruch included. 

Scientists also found a host of rare, ancient trinkets, ranging from pottery, glass, roof tiles and multicolored mosaic pieces. 

The items helped researchers to determine the site was likely to have been active between the 4th and 6th centuries B.C. 

One item stood out to the scientists in particular, however. 

They stumbled upon a rare silver coin, which the scientists said is one of the oldest they have discovered so far in the Jerusalem area. 

According to the researchers, it is the Greek currency drachma. 

Drachma was minted ‘in Ashdod by Greek rulers between 420 and 390 BCE,’ the Times of Israel noted. 

 

 Aside from the pool and fountain, scientists also unearthed a variety of trinkets at the site. They found pottery, glass, roof tiles, coins and multicolored mosaic pieces 

 

Scientists discovered a rare silver coin that they believe may be a sample of the Greek currency drachma. Drachma dates back to between 420 and 390 BCE
Scientists discovered a rare silver coin that they believe may be a sample of the Greek currency drachma. Drachma dates back to between 420 and 390 BCE.
P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.