Mikveh at Qumran

Mikveh at Qumran, Locus 138, looking east, early first century B.C.E. Photograph courtesy of Jutta Jokiranta.

This ritual immersion pool, or mikveh, was used for ritual purification after impure events such as menstruation, sex, childbirth, skin disease, contact with a corpse, or performing animal sacrifice. According to the laws of the Torah (especially Leviticus), both men and women were required to maintain ritual purity. Fresh water was channeled into the mikveh through aqueducts fed by nearby rivers. Qumran lies at the northwestern edge of the Dead Sea in the Jordan River valley and in the first century B.C.E. and first century C.E. was the site of a Jewish sect that maintained strict purity standards.

Mikveh at Qumran,  Locus 138, steps looking east

An archaeological site on the western shore of the Dead Sea, in modern Israel, where a small group of Jews lived in the last centuries B.C.E. The site was destroyed by the Romans around 70 C.E. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found in caves near the site and are believed by most scholars to have belonged to the people living at Qumran.

The ritual killing and offering of animals to deities, often on an altar and intended as good for the gods.

Completely surrounding a person in something. Within Christianity, it refers to baptisms where the baptized person is dunked entirely underwater, as opposed to having water poured over them.

The means of cleansing oneself of any ritual impurity that would prevent participation in religious observance such as sacrifice at the temple.

Collective ceremonies having a common focus on a god or gods.

A religious subgroup.

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