A series of inscriptions found in Jerusalem on the walls of a ritual bath dating from the first century AD has been described by archaeologists as a very significant find.

The ritual bath - known as a miqwe - was found during the excavation of an underground cave along with an anteroom and winepress.

The walls of the miqwe had been plastered and were adorned with numerous paintings and inscriptions written in the Aramaic language using Hebrew cursive script in mud, soot and through incision.

The meaning of the inscriptions remains a mystery and could be names. Among the symbols found were those of a boat, palm trees, plants and possibly a menorah.

Royee Greenwald and Alexander Wiegmann, who are directing the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement that to find such a concentration of inscriptions and symbols from the Second Temple period at a single site - and in such a state of preservation, "is rare and unique and most intriguing".

The directors said the symbols found could be interpreted as secular or as "symbols of religious significance and deep spirituality". Following preservation treatment at the site, the wall paintings were transferred to conservation laboratories for further treatment and stabilisation. It is anticipated they will be displayed to the public at some time in the future.

~ www.antiquities.org.il