During November 2004, a salvage excavation was conducted in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of Jerusalem (Permit No. A- 4282*; map ref. NIG 2193/6283; OIG 1693/1283), in the wake of installing a water line. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority and funded by the Gihon Company, was directed by I. Zilberbod, with the assistance of A. Hajian (surveying), T. Sagiv (photography), C. Hersch (find drawing), C. Amit (studio photography) and T. Kornfeld (drafting).
Mechanical equipment that worked in the area exposed the walls of an installation, which turned out to be a miqwe (Figs. 1, 2).
The miqwe (2 × 5 m, max. depth 2 m), aligned north–south, was quarried in bedrock on a slope that descends northward to Nahal Refa’im. The longitudinal walls and the upper half of the southern lateral wall were vertical, whereas the bottom half of the southern wall was vaulted. The entrance to the miqwe was apparently located in the northern part that was severely damaged. The staircase descending into the miqwe was survived by the three bottom steps that were hewn the entire width of the installation (max. width 2.2 m). The upper two steps were relatively low (Loci 12, 13, 14; height of step 0.2 m), whereas the bottom step, which served as the side of the immersion pool, was higher (L15; height 0.4 m).
The remains of a built partition (W3; length 0.6 m, width 0.25 m) on the upper step divided the staircase between those ascending and descending the steps, as was customary in numerous ritual baths from the Second Temple period in Jerusalem and its environs.
Only the southern corner of the miqwe’s western wall was exposed. The eastern wall (W1; preserved length 3.5 m) was partially preserved and the southern wall (W2; length 2 m) was preserved in its entirety. The immersion pool (L16; length 2.1 m, width 1.5 m, height 0.4 m) was rectangular. Hydraulic plaster was applied to the miqwe’s walls and floor.
The collapse above the miqwe’s floor consisted of dressed masonry stones, flagstones and numerous pottery vessels from the Early Roman period (the first century CE), including bowls (Fig. 3:1–4), cooking pots (Fig. 3:5–12), jars (Fig. 3:13–19), a flask (Fig. 3:20), jugs (Fig. 3:21–25), a strainer jug (Fig. 3: 26) and the base of an amphora (Fig. 3:27). Among the special finds were an iron pruning sickle (Fig. 4) and a decorated fragment of a small, soft limestone column (Fig. 5), which was probably the leg of a stone table, such as were found in villas from the Second Temple period.
Judging by the plan, the architectural features and the artifacts, it can be assumed that the miqwe was part of a residential compound in a farm estate of the type built in the agricultural hinterland of Jerusalem during the latter part of the Second Temple period.