Pictured here is a Jewish ritual bath, also known as a mikvah,
which was recently discovered in Portsmouth at Strawbery
Banke. (Ryan McBride/Staff photographer,
Foster's Daily Democrat)
A century-old mikvah — a ritual immersion bath — was unearthed by the museum's archaeological staff after a former resident shared his memory of the structure. As there is no written record of this particular mikvah's existence, the discovery will allow local historians an opportunity to more accurately detail the history of Jewish culture in Portsmouth.
While starting a vegetable garden on the site of what once held the Pecunies homestead, Ronald Pecunies casually mentioned his memory of a mikvah located in the basement of his family's former home. Rather than using it for its original purpose of ritual cleansing, Pecunies noted that his family, which owned the home from the late 1930s to the 1960s, used the structure to brine fish.
The mention of the mikvah greatly intrigued former museum archaeologist Sheila Charles, who soon kick-started an effort to uncover this piece of history.