Here in the USA the Public Broadcasting System is airing Ancient Invisible Cities — three one hour programs on the cities of Athens, Cairo, and Istanbul. This past week I saw the one on Athens and it was very interesting. It took me to places that I had not seen before and used computer graphics to investigate a structure such as the Erechtheum on the Acropolis. It is available online right now at:
And, the folk at Jerusalem Perspective have placed on line a 54 min lecture (with pictures) by Ronny Reich entitled “The Mikveh and Ritual Immerson in the Second Temple Period.” Ronny Reich is of course famous for many excavations—but especially at the Gihon Spring and the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem.
This is an informative lecture about the archaeology and literary sources that describe miqvaoth. You will want to have pen and paper at hand to take notes. Around 14:00–26:00 he describes the minimun requirements for a miqveh. And talks about miqvaoth discovered in the Jewish Quarter by Avigad and near the Temple Mount by Mazar. Also ones at Gamla (33:00), Jericho (41:45), Masada (48:20), and Qumran. I always wondered how they cleaned them and exactly how an otzar worked—here I found out. But remember, this is as of 2006, before the discovery of many additional ritual baths such as the ones at Magdala.
Here are two miqvaoth samples from Jerusalem that are not discussed by Reich and one question (from me) from Jericho.
This ritual bath (miqveh) is located in Benjamin Mazar’s excavations south of the Triple Gate of the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif) area.
Note the steps that lead down into the ritual bath (miqvah). Our guide suggested that this ritual bath may have been used by the priests that served in the Temple itself. But, since it looks like it would have been difficult to immerse oneself in this bath/pool/basin, our guide said that an alternative view is that it was a place where ritual vessels were washed (purified). It seems to me that this bath/pool is very similar in design to the larger one that was found by Benjamin Mazar south of the Temple Mount.
This large ritual bath is from the late Second Temple Period (New Testament era) and is located on the lower eastern slope of the Western Hill—west of the Temple Mount proper.
My Question: is this a Balsam Processing Pool? It looks like one of the above Ritual Baths. Also, see here!
This is a view of a pool that, according to the excavator, was used for the soaking of Balsam branches.
The balsam plantations at Jericho were world famous and this precious commodity was shipped all over the Roman World. To harvest it I believe that usually not-too-deep slits were cut into the branches of the bush with either a sharp bone or piece of glass—never with a metal knife. The sap that came out was processed for its scent.
Evidently, another method included the cutting and soaking of crushed branches, in a pool such as this, but I am not certain how that process actually worked. I am guessing that the finished product, although valuable, was not as good quality as that produced by the method described above.
See Netzer, Ehud, and Rachel Laureys–Chachy. The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008, pp. 42–80.