Israeli family discovers ancient treasure under the living room
On Wednesday, Israeli authorities said they had found a rare, well-preserved 2,000-year-old Jewish ritual bath hidden beneath the floorboards of a Jerusalem home.
The discovery in the Ein Kerem neighbourhood of Jerusalem sheds new light on the area’s ancient Jewish and early Christian communities.
But the finding may be most notable because before deciding to come clean, the couple who own the home practically kept the treasure covered under a rug for three years.
In an interview, the wife said that when renovating their home three years ago, the family found evidence of a mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath.
Strong equipment that sank through a hole was used by construction workers, leading the crew to discover the bath.
She said that she and her husband were unsure of the significance and continued with the planned construction.
But they also preserved the discovery, adding a pair of wooden doors in the floor to allow access to the bath and concealing the entrance with a rug.
The couple’s curiosity, however, persisted. Earlier this week, they contacted the Israeli Antiquities Authority and reported their finding.
The family asked that their names be withheld to protect their privacy.
Amit Reem, an archaeologist with the authority, estimated the ritual bath dates back to the first century B.C., around the time of the Second Jewish Temple.
The bath remains largely intact, and includes a staircase leading to what was once a pool. Archeologists also found pottery and unique stone vessels dating to the same period.
According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist is said to have been born in the Jewish community around Ein Kerem around the first century.
Reem said the discovery adds to the physical evidence of the Jewish community in the area, which he said has been “sporadic.”
Reem said it is not uncommon for households around Jerusalem to unearth Jewish antiquities under their floorboards, though he did not know how many cases there were.
The family does not have to move and will keep the ritual bath preserved with the help of the Antiquities Authority.