Washington: An archaeological dig on Jerusalem`s Mt. Zion has revealed the well-preserved lower levels of what the archaeological team believes is an Early Roman period mansion, possibly belonging to a member of the Jewish ruling priestly caste.
If the mansion is an elite priestly residence, the team hopes the relatively undisturbed nature of the buried ruin may yield significant domestic details concerning the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.
Particularly important in the season`s discoveries were a buried vaulted chamber that has proven to be an unusual finished bathroom (with bathtub) adjacent to a large below-ground ritual cleansing pool (mikveh) -- only the fourth bathroom to be found in Israel from the Second Temple period, with two of the others found in palaces of Herod the Great at Jericho and Masada.
Shimon Gibson, the British-born archaeologist co-directing the University of North Carolina at Charlotte excavation, said that the bathroom is very important because hitherto, except for Jerusalem, it is usually found within palace complexes, associated with the rulers of the country.
Gibson said that the building that they are excavating is in the shadow - immediately to the southeast - of the very, very large palace of Herod the Great, his compound and the later seat of the Roman governors and whoever lived there would have been able to pop into the palace.
Sig co-director James Tabor, a UNC Charlotte scholar of early Christian history, said that if it a priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem -- the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day -- but to Jesus himself.
He said that these are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified.
Photo credit: Shimon Gibson