2,000 year-old message found in ritual bath house in Jerusalem

2,000 year-old message found in ritual bath house in Jerusalem

Mysterious message on bath house wall dates to the first century.

Construction workers building a nursery in Jerusalem stumbled into an underground cave that turned out to be a ritual bath house, reported the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

An article on Discovery.com reports the inscriptions were written with mud, soot and carvings and were coded with symbols, leaving the message somewhat mysterious.

The inscriptions were written in cursive Hebrew script, in the ancient language of Aramaic.  Aramaic was the language spoken at the time of Jesus, and the Hebrew script was popular around the time of the end of the Second Temple period.

The Second Temple period began around 530 B.C. and ended with the destruction of the second Jewish temple by Romans in 70 A.D.

Among the symbols are a boat, palm trees and various plant species, and quite possibly, a menorah.  The menorah is notable because the art of the time refrained from displaying religious artifacts and sacred objects.

Experts have had little success trying to decode the message so far.  Most of the symbols are common to the art of the area, but some of the inscriptions could contain names and other information.

Another burning question is why the symbols and inscriptions were drawn in the bath house in the first place.  Archeologists are wondering if the inscription belonged to just one person, or a group of people, and was it just early graffiti or does it contain a spiritual or inspirational message.

A statement from the IAA excavation directors said “Such a concentration of inscriptions and symbols from the Second Temple period at one archaeological site, and in such a state of preservation, is rare and unique and most intriguing.”

The wall paintings have been removed from the ritual bath and taken to conservation labs for preservation and to be stabilized.

The general pubic will be allowed to view the inscriptions in the future, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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