The Mikveh Excavation Continues

Posted on December 16th, 2010 by

A blog post by archivist Jennifer Vess.

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It’s been a few weeks since my last report on the most recent round of mikveh excavations, and a lot has happened.  Archaeologists have been in the Lloyd Street Synagogue clearing, digging, and sifting through the dirt (and mud).

After removing the dirt from the excavation site these archaeology students have to sift through it to find small objects like nails and pottery fragments.

This archaeology student is digging in the area that we now know to be the 1845 mikveh.

The archaeologists have uncovered more than just the mikveh. This picture shows the base of a defunct chimney from the 1860 expansion of the synagogue.

Archaeologist making measured drawings of the site. The lower right corner shows the area where the 1845 mikveh was located.

Under all of the dirt you can just make out a piece of wood recently uncovered in the mikveh excavation.

Last week the excitement surrounding the dig began to increase.  First, we hit water.  A few of the museum staff had a moment of panic when they heard water – imagining a gushing flood (like Old Faithful maybe), but that wasn’t the case.  The archaeologists had been digging down into an area they believed to be the 1845 mikveh itself, and had reached the water table – essentially they had standing water.  While we were spared the trials of gushing and flowing water, this did mean that the deeper the archaeologists dug the more water they would encounter.  In order to continue the investigation they have been pumping water out as they go.

This picture shows the first signs of water in the excavation. The archaeologists had been expecting it. The deeper they dug the more mud they encountered -- water couldn't be far behind.

Pumping water out of the excavation

But far more exciting than encountering water (at least to me) was discovering nineteenth century pottery and bottle fragments.  Some of the pieces have markings that can help us identify their use and age.  They most likely ended up in the mikveh when it was filled in before Baltimore Hebrew Congregation expanded the Lloyd Street Synagogue in 1860.

Pottery and bottle fragments

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We have a few more days of excavations left, then the archaeologists will work on a report that includes all of their discoveries.  Look for at least one more blog post before it’s all wrapped up.

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