Archaeologists announced that they have found a cave in the Judean Hills leading to the oldest baptismal site discovered to date - a huge water
cistern decorated with evocative wall carvings where they believe John the Baptist anointed many disciples.
The 24m (79ft) deep cave is situated on present day Kibbutz Tzuba, about 4km (2.5miles) from John's birthplace ,the village of Ein Kerem (today part
Cave possibly used by John the Baptist found
"The site we've uncovered is seemingly the connecting link between Jewish and Christian baptism," said British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, who
heads the private Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit and supervised the dig.
Archaeologists said the cave was carved in the Iron Age, somewhere between 800 and 500 B.C.E., by Israelite monks who apparently used it as an
The most striking discovery dates from the first century C.E.: it indicates "a ritual that differed from the normative Jewish ritual" of the time.
Believers would have walked down 28 stone steps, at the bottom of which they would have placed their right foot onto a stone with an imprint of a
foot, about shoe size 45.
A small depression to the right of the imprint would have contained oil, to be poured over the foot for cleansing, Gibson said.
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However, some scholars said Mr. Gibson's finds were not enough to support his theory
James Tabor, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which helped sponsor the dig, said that unfortunately,
they did not find any inscriptions that would conclusively link the cave to John the Baptist
Both Tabor and Gibson said it was very likely that the Byzantine-era wall carvings, including one showing a man with a staff and wearing animal skin,
referred to John the Baptist.
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[edit on 8-17-2004 by Valhall]