A plastered building, probably a ritual bath ("mikveh"), dating back to the Second Temple period has been exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted prior to the installation of a water line by the Mekorot Company at an antiquities site, about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) north of Kibbutz Zor'a.
The excavation revealed a square structure that has three walls treated with a thin layer of plaster that facilitated the storage of water. A channel used to drain water into the ritual bath was installed in a corner.
In addition, a plaster floor and three stairs that descend from it to the west (toward the hewn openings in the bedrock) were exposed.
Location of water line to be changed (Photo: Skyview, courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority)
According to archaeologist Pablo Betzer, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first time that any remains dating to the Second Temple period have been exposed in this region.
"We knew from the Talmud and from non-Jewish sources that on this ridge, as in most of the Judean Shephelah, there was an extensive Jewish community 2,000 years ago that existed until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Yet despite the many surveys and excavations that have been carried out to date no remains from this period have been discovered so far”.
According to Betzer the name of the Jewish settlement that the ritual bath belonged to is still unknown.
Mekorot reports that the building was discovered while modernizing the water supply system first built in the 1950s in the region between Kefar Uriyya and Moshav Yish'i, in a project slated to cost NIS 20 million ($5.5 million).
During the course of all the infrastructure work Mekorot fully cooperated with the Israel Antiquities Authority out of a commitment to the values of tradition and history.
Mekorot also stated that the discovery will not affect the project’s timetable and that the work will be completed on schedule.
In order to preserve the discovery, Mekorot has agreed to change the location of the slated water line.