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JERUSALEM — A couple in Jerusalem kept a national treasure hidden in their floorboards for three years, and they’re finally coming clean.
When the couple began renovation work on their home three years ago, they were stunned when they stumbled upon what would later be identified as a 2,000-year-old Jewish ritual bath — or mikveh — under their living room, according to the Times of Israel.
Construction workers fell into the bath when a heavy piece of machinery broke through the limestone ceiling of the mikveh.
“At some point, while the workers were breaking up flooring, the jackhammer disappeared,” homeowner Oriah Shimshoni told the Times of Israel. “It just plunged downward.”
The crew got down and began digging with their hands, and that’s when they made the discovery. The Shimshonis said they didn’t realize exactly how rare and precious their buried treasure really was and were worried about the bureaucracy involved in reporting it right away, the Times reported.
So they decided to stick with their original construction plans, but not before installing doors leading down to the mikveh — providing easy access to the bath, according to CBS News. They threw a rug over the doors to conceal the entrance.
Flash forward to earlier this week, when the Shimshonis finally decided to report their discovery to the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Upon examining the bath, archaeologists determined it provides additional proof of the widely believed Christian theory that John the Baptist was born in this particular area.
Finding antiquities under a private home or public building only happens in Israel, and it Jerusalem particularly. Every time it's thrilling anew.
–Amit Reem, Israeli Antiquities Authority
More specifically, it offers proof of an ancient Jewish settlement in the neighborhood.
“All these events took place 2,000 years ago in the days of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, but until now we didn’t have archaeological evidence supporting the notion that there was a Jewish community in Ein Kerem,” said archaeologist Amit Reem. “Maybe this is the ‘town of Judea’ mentioned in Luke. We don’t know.”
Archeologists also found shards of ceramic and stone vessels in the bath.
“Finding antiquities under a private home or public building only happens in Israel, and it Jerusalem particularly. Every time it’s thrilling anew,” Reem told the Times of Israel.
The Shimshonis said the bath still fills up in the winter, but they don’t know the source of the water. The Israeli Antiquities Authority lauded the couple for reporting their historically significant find.