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Archaeologist Finds Baptism Site

Aug 11, 2005

The following article is adapted from TheTimesOnline from the UK:

First baptism site’s source found
By Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

A British archaeologist has discovered a monumental water system dating from the 8th century BC. It lies near an extraordinary cave, found west of Jerusalem last year, with a ritual baptism pool and rock carvings linked to John the Baptist and his followers.

Shimon Gibson, who has been excavating sites in Israel and the occupied territories over many years, has found a rock-hewn system dating back to the time of Hezekiah, King of Judah.

Descending to a depth of 20m (66ft), the construction features a vertical shaft, an open horizontal corridor, a flight of stone steps above a tunnel, and three external plastered pools on a slope above an underground reservoir.

The find follows Dr Gibson’s discovery of the cave, revealed last year.

The cave is unusually large — 24m by 3.5m — and close to the village of Ain Karim, John the Baptist’s traditional birthplace according to Christian sources.

The archaeologist, whose excavation was sponsored by the University of North Carolina, said that the latest find sheds light on why a group of baptisers would have chosen this cave — for its seclusion, size and antiquity: “What baptisers wanted was a place, distant from villages, large enough to contain groups of people and ancient so that the cultic side of the rituals was put into a context linking them to the time of the Israelite prophets.”