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Report: Herod's ritual bath uncovered

Dead Sea

A Hungarian archaeological team has uncovered what likely was a ritual bath for King Herod.

According to Breaking Israel News, an excavation at the fortress Machaerus, built by Herod on the shores of the Dead Sea, found a large ritual bath that likely was constructed for the royal family’s use.

The bath, which has 12 steps, was fed from a reserve pool when its water ran low.

The report explained a ritual bath would have needed at least 83 gallons of water, and this one apparently was fed by a 54-foot-deep underground cistern that also watered the gardens.

Ritual bathing pool at the Machaerus fortress believed used by King Herod

“The architecture of the bath is very similar to the baths and cisterns discovered in nearby Qumran (across the Dead Sea). It is situated 9 [feet] below the royal courtyard, and used to be covered by a vaulted stone roof, which was probably demolished by Lucilius Bassus’ 10th Roman legion. Bassus’ soldiers, on a campaign to repress the Great Jewish Revolt, in 71 attacked the Herodian fortress and the Jewish warriors who were hiding inside,” BIN reported.

Collapsed walls and massive stone column drums were among the discoveries.

BIN reports the fortress, which is in a direct line of sight to Jerusalem, was erected in about 90 B.C. by Alexander Yanai, a Hasmonean king, and was used to watch for invaders from the east.

“Machaerus was destroyed by Pompey’s general Gabinius in 57 BCE, and later rebuilt by Herod in 30 BCE as a military base. Herod’s son, Herod Antipas, inherited the fortress (and the kingdom) in 4 BCE, until his demise in 39 CE. That’s time when, according to Christian belief, John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded at Machaerus,” BIN reported.

Archaeological work has been done at the site since about 1968, when a project was launched by the American Archaeological Baptist Mission.

“The current excavations, by a Hungarian-Jordanian team led by Dr. Győző Vörös, have unearthed intact massive walls 30 feet high, revealing the majesty of the legendary Herodian architecture,” BIN reported.

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