The rock-hewn mivweh
(Fig. 1) has a hewn dromos
(Cavity I; length 3.8 m, average width 2 m, estimated height 2.2 m near its end and the immersion chamber (Cavity II). The four upper steps of the dromos
were exposed, but the remaining steps, leading to the immersion chamber, were covered with soil. The tread depth of the top step is c. 0.8 m and of the rest of the exposed steps is 0.3–0.4 m. Traces of gray hydraulic plaster found on the walls of the dromos
and on the steps hewn in its floor contain small gravel inclusions, which are typical of the period extending from Herod’s reign to the Bar Kokhba Revolt (Porath 1989
). Two dressed stones coated with gray plaster (Fig. 2) lay on the top step, in the northeast corner of the dromos
. Walls, of which only a single course of dressed stones was preserved, were built on the hewn bedrock surface above the eastern, western and southern walls of the dromos
(Fig. 3). These may have carried a barrel vault that roofed the dromos
. An opening (height 1.5 m, width 0.8 m, jamb width c. 0.5 m) cut in the south wall of the dromos
leads to the immersion chamber.
The floor of the immersion chamber (Cavity II) was covered with soil accumulations, making it impossible to reconstruct its exact form. In the eastern corner of the chamber, a wide step coated with gray hydraulic plaster—apparently the top step within the chamber—was discernible. Above this step, on the wall near the eastern jamb of the chamber’s entrance, was a triangular rock-hewn niche for an oil lamp (Fig. 4). In later periods, the chamber was apparently enlarged (length c. 7 m, width c. 6 m after enlargement) and put to some secondary use. Nevertheless, judging by the traces of the hydraulic plaster preserved on the walls and the ceiling of the cavity, it is possible to reconstruct the original dimensions of the immersion chamber (length c. 5.5 m, width c. 4 m).
The architectural features of the ritual bath—its rock-hewn dromos
coated with gray plaster, its easily accessible entrance which nevertheless required a bit of stooping, the stepped and plastered immersion chamber and the triangular oil-lamp niche—all suggest that the installation was used during the Early Roman period by local Jewish inhabitants who observed the laws of ritual purity (Reich 2013
). Potsherds from the Hellenistic–Early Roman periods evident throughout the site reinforce corroborate this assumption. Ritual baths from this period have been found at other Jewish settlements nearby, as at Shemurat Shayyarot (Zissu, Solimany and Weiss 1997
im (Zissu, Solimany and Weiss 1997
:102), and H