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New Archaeology and Cave Writing: 2000-Year-Old Message in Jerusalem

Aug 06, 2015 12:03 PM EDT
2000-year-old paintings and inscriptions were recently found in an underground cave in Jerusalem.
The images and writing were found during routine excavations in the ancient city, while constructing a preschool. What were they, and what language was used?
(Photo : Israel Antiquities Authority)

Signs of First Century A.D. humans bathing and leaving a message in symbols, inscriptions, and the language used in the time of Jesus Christ were recently found in an underground cave in Jerusalem during the construction of a preschool, according to a release.

That is, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) was doing a routine archaeological inspection and found the images on the ancient, plastered walls of a mikveh, or ritual bath, in the ancient city's Arnona quarter, as the IAA noted in their statement.

The mikveh walls bore wall paintings and inscriptions in Aramaic and written in cursive Hebrew script, which was the usual procedure at the end of the Second Temple period. The symbols include a boat, palm trees and various plants, and possibly a menorah, the statement noted.

"There is no doubt that this is a very significant discovery. Such a concentration of inscriptions and symbols from the Second Temple period at one archaeological site, and in such a state of preservation, is rare and unique and most intriguing," noted Royee Greenwald and Alexander Wiegmann, excavation directors with the IAA, in their statement.

The two excavators also said that the possible menorah is unusual--because at that point people refrained from portraying this sacred object, which was located in the Temple. Greenwald and Wiegmann said in the release, "On the one hand, the symbols can be interpreted as secular, and on the other as symbols of religious significance and deep spirituality."

Because the wall paintings are sensitive to light exposure, the IAA removed them from the ritual bath and have stored them in conservations labs. In the future, they'll be displayed to the general public, the statement said.

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