A dig on Jerusalem's Mount Zion found lower levels of what could be an Early Roman-period mansion, University of North Carolina-Charlotte archaeologists said.
The team theorized that the mansion possibly belonged to a member of the Jewish ruling priestly caste, and could yield significant details about the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus if the theory bears fruit, the university said Tuesday in a release.
Archaeologists said of particular importance was a buried vaulted chamber that was determined to be a finished bathroom -- with a bathtub -- adjacent to a below-ground ritual cleansing pool.
Shimon Gibson, a British-born archaeologist co-directing the UNC-Charlotte excavation, said the bathroom adjacent to the cleansing pool clearly indicates wealth and status.
"The bathroom is very important because hitherto, except for Jerusalem, it is usually found within palace complexes, associated with the rulers of the country," Gibson said.
Gibson notes there were other details that indicated that its First Century residents may have been members of the ruling elite.
Dig co-director James Tabor, a UNC Charlotte early Christian history scholar, while cautioning against drawing early conclusions, said he thought there might be significant historical information uncovered, if the building was, indeed, a priestly residence.
"If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem -- the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day -- but to Jesus himself," Tabor said. "These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life -- and the level of wealth that they enjoyed -- would really fill in for us some key history."