Roman Bath found in Jerusalem’s Old City

In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, archaeologists have found a pool dating from year 70 with the insignia of the Tenth Roman Legion – another impressive find from that period apparently showing the extent of the city at that time. The pool was apparently part of the military’s leisure facility (Read The report in Haaretz here). 

This report also typifies the fact that almost any infrastructure work in the Old City of Jerusalem results in finding legacies of the past. Over time the base level of the Old City has risen as debris and destruction have filled in the history. This is dramatically obvious looking at the columns in the Cardo (Roman) now well below street level.

The surprise discovery also includes the paw print of a dog, which probably belonged to one of the soldiers. According to the excavation director Ofen Sion, the print “could have happened accidentally or intended as a joke.”

Why is the discovery of the pool a “surprise” one? It’s simply because archaeologists did not really expect to find the Roman structure in the Jewish Quarter, where a Jewish ritual bath, called the “mikvah,” was being constructed.

The stamped impressions on the roof tiles and the mud bricks (in their original place) bear witness that the Romans were, in fact, were builders of the bathhouse. It looks like that bathhouse were used by these soldiers who were garrisoned there after successfully suppressing the Bar Kochba revolt during 2nd century A.D.

The Roman soldiers’ “leisure complex” includes several plastered bathtubs in the side of a pool, a pipe to fill them water and a white mosaic pavement on the floor. A number of terra cotta roof tiles were found on the pool floors which, archaeologists concluded, was an indication that it was a covered structure.

Broken, Clay Pots, Shard, Chips, Backdrop, Header
broken clay pots — this image is for illustrative purposes only

Archaeologists also found several ancient shards of pottery and glassware, found inside a plastered pit exposed at the site — an indication that a workshop was possibly built there which used the ancient pit for discarding waste.

The unexpected discovery of the 1,800-year-old bathhouse further attests that the Roman encampment was established to maintain their control in today’s Israel.

Until this recent surprise discovery of the Roman bathhouse in the Jewish Quarter, it had been previously thought that Aeila Capitolina, the Roman city which was established after the devastation of Jerusalem, was small and limited in area.

But the discovery of the ancient Roman bathhouse, along with other recent discoveries, shows that Aeila Capitolina was bigger than what archaeologists previously estimated. Information about this Roman city is, “extremely valuable” and can significantly contribute to the research on Jerusalem because it was in that city that determines the overall appearance and character of the ancient Jerusalem.