Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Archaeological Excavations at other Mikvot

Archaeologists have excavated mikvot at other sites on the East Coast.  Three important mikveh excavations have been in Connecticut, Baltimore, and New York City.

In Connecticut, researchers were investigating Old Chesterfield, an 1890s farming community of 500 Russian Jewish immigrants who relocated from NYC.  Recent excavations revealed a stone and wood-lined mikveh.  This mikveh is perhaps the only rural mikveh ever investigated by archaeologists in North America.  It is featured in the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the New England Hebrew Farmers of the Emanuel Society Synagogue and Creamery Site.  For more on the Chesterfield mikveh, click here.
The Chesterfield mikveh

In New York City, during 2001 restorations of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, archaeologists revealed a mikveh from the early 20th century.  The mikveh measured 6 by 7 feet and included six marble steps and white tile.  Its discovery raised exciting questions about the practice of ritual immersion among early 20th century Jewish immigrants in NYC.  The synagogue is now fully restored and is a National Historic Landmark.  For more on the Eldridge Street mikveh, click here.

In Baltimore, excavations at the historic Lloyd Street Synagogue in 2001 and 2008 revealed a five foot deep wooden tub dating to 1845, making it the oldest mikveh ever uncovered in the United States.  Archaeologists found that the mikveh and bath house had been torn down in the 1860s when the synagogue expanded.  There are two tile lined mikvehs that were built later, after an Orthodox congregation bought the synagogue in 1905.  The Lloyd Street Synagogue is now part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  For more on the Lloyd Street mikveh, click here.,0,946474.photogallery?index=bal-md-lloyd-mikveh-p4na20110213144402
Esther Read, an archaeologist and professor at University of Maryland, excavating the Lloyd Street mikveh.

Two of these mikvot are in very urban areas, and the Chesterfield mikveh is in a very rural area.  The Puddle Dock neighborhood falls somewhere between New York City, Baltimore, and Chesterfield, CT on the urban/rural scale.  It will be very interesting to compare the mikveh we hope to uncover here at Strawbery Banke Museum with these other archaeologically explored mikvot!

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