The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a Jewish ritual bath 1.2 miles (2 km) north of Kibbutz Zorah. Biblical Zorah is about 1.2 miles northeast of the kibbutz.

A plastered building, probably a ritual bath (miqve), dating to the Second Temple period (first century BCE-first century CE) was exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted prior to the installation of a water line by the Mekorot Company at an antiquities site, c. 2 kilometers north of Kibbutz Zor’a.
The excavation revealed a square structure that has three walls treated with a thin layer of plaster that facilitated the storage of water. A channel used to drain water into the ritual bath was installed in a corner. In addition, a plaster floor and three stairs that descend from it to the west (toward the hewn openings in the bedrock) were exposed.
According to archaeologist Pablo Betzer, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first time that any remains dating to the Second Temple period have been exposed in this region. We knew from the Talmud and from non-Jewish sources that on this ridge, as in most of the Judean Shephelah, there was an extensive Jewish community 2,000 years ago that existed until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Yet despite the many surveys and excavations that have been carried out to date no remains from this period have been discovered so far”. According to Betzer the name of the Jewish settlement that the ritual bath belonged to is still unknown.

There’s a lesson here too about the limitations of archaeological surveys.

Samson was born and buried between Zorah and Eshtaol (Judg 13:24-25; 16:31). This new discovery dates to about 1,000 years after the period of the judges.

The link for high-resolution photos is now working. The link to the press release is here.

Sorek Valley and Zorah aerial from south, tb010703366

The Sorek Valley separates the modern city of Beth Shemesh (bottom) from the tree-covered ridge where biblical Zorah was located. Kibbutz Zorah is located in the valley on the left side.

Eilat Mazar is upset that she is not in charge of a small dig at the entrance to the City of David, blasting Elad and the Israel Antiquities Authority for carrying out excavations that are nothing more than a “tourism gimmick.” Elad claims Mazar is motivated “for reasons of ego and credit only, camouflaged as pseudo-professional complaints.” The story is reported by Haaretz.

"To my astonishment I discovered that for over a year Elad, together with the Antiquities Authority, has been secretly planning a tourism gimmick called the ‘Jeremiah’s Pit Project," writes Mazar in her letter, noting that the excavation is only two meters away from the excavation area that she directed between 2005 and 2008. She says that she wanted to continue digging in the present area, but was prevented from doing so "for logistical reasons, since north of the site the Antiquities Authority permitted Elad to build a special events hall," and because of the area’s proximity to a residential building and a road. Mazar claims that the excavation in the area of the pit contravenes several accepted practices in archaeology, among them, the digging up of an unusually small area of a mere "two squares," or 10 square meters, which makes it difficult to analyze the findings in relation to the overall area. An excavation of this size, claims Mazar, is made only in situations where there is no other choice. Mazar is also critical of the diggers’ intention to destroy the wall of the pit, which has not been properly investigated. She also notes that the dig "interferes with the nearby excavations," which will undermine her ability to complete the research in the area. She claims that it is not acceptable to transfer an area being excavated by one archaeologist to another one, without the former’s consent.

Mazar’s 2005-2008 excavations were funded by Elad. I don’t think she would act this way if she thought there was any hope of ever working with them in the City of David again. The article contains more details and the responses of the IAA and Elad. There is surely more to this story than what is contained in letters and legal replies. Mazar may feel a bit like a spurned lover, refused the opportunity to dig in the last available area near her palace of David.