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Cave may have been used by John the Baptist

Aug. 16, 2004 at 11:08 PM   |   Comments

KIBBUTZ TZUBA, Israel, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- A cave in the Judean Hills in Israel contained the oldest baptismal site that some believe John the Baptist may have used, archaeologists said Monday.

Archaeologists discovered a large water cistern and wall carvings where they believe John the Baptist may have anointed many disciples, the Ha'aretz News Service reported.

The cave at Kibbutz Tzuba, south of Jerusalem and 2.4 miles from where John the Baptist was born, contained the ancient wall decorations and a stone believed to have been used for ceremonial foot washing. The archaeologists said they examined some 250,000 pottery shards from the cave believed to be remnants of small water jugs used in the baptismal ritual.

"The site we've uncovered is seemingly the connecting link between Jewish and Christian baptism," said British archaeologist Shimon Gibson, the head of the private Jerusalem Archaeological Field Unit, who supervised the dig.

No inscriptions were found, according to James Tabor, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which helped sponsor the dig.

However, Tabor and Gibson said it's likely the Byzantine-era wall carvings -- one showing a man with a staff and wearing animal skin -- referred to John the Baptist.

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