The excavation site of the 1,800-year-old bathing pool // © 2011 Shlomi Amami courtesy of IIA
Jerusalem’s Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently unearthed an 1,800-year-old bathing pool that was likely part of a bathhouse used by the Tenth Legion — the Roman soldiers who destroyed the Second Temple of Jerusalem. The discovery sheds light on the ancient city of Aelia Capitolina, which was founded on the Second Temple period ruins of Jerusalem.
“The mark of the soldiers of the Tenth Legion, in the form of the stamped impressions on the roof tiles and the in situ mud bricks, bears witness to the fact that they were the builders of the structure,” said IAA excavation director Dr. Ofer Sion. “It seems that the bathhouse was used by these soldiers who were garrisoned there after suppressing the Bar Kokhba uprising in 135 DA, when the pagan city Aelia Capitolina was established. We know that the Tenth Legion’s camp was situated within the limits of what is today the Old City, probably in the region of the Armenian Quarter. This assumption is reinforced by the discovery of the bathhouse in the nearby Jewish Quarter, which shows that the multitude of soldiers was spread out and that they were also active outside the camp, in other parts of the Old City.”
The unearthed bathhouse along with other archaeological discoveries of recent years shows that Aelia Capitolina was considerably larger than previously estimated, according to IAA Jerusalem district archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch.
“Information about Aelia Capitolina is extremely valuable and can contribute greatly to research on Jerusalem because it was that city that determined the character and general appearance of ancient Jerusalem as we know it today.”
The remains of the ancient Roman bathhouse will be integrated in the new ritual bath that is slated to be built in the Jewish Quarter.
In related news, eight 400,000-year-old teeth were recently discovered in the Qesem Cave archaeological site east of Tel Aviv. The teeth, resembling a similar shape and size of those of modern-day humans, were uncovered by Professor Avi Gopher and Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Archeology. The archeologists believe that the discovery may help overturn the theory that Homosapiens emerged from Africa some 200,000 years ago.
Excavations at the Qesem Cave continue, and both Gopher and Barkai hope to uncover additional discoveries that will enable them to enhance their understanding of the evolution of man.