Werner Braun

Essene latrines. Only the corner of a rock-hewn platform remains of what author Pixner has tentatively identified as ancient outhouses built outside the Gate of the Essenes.

The location of the outhouses just northwest of the city gate complies with purity laws found in the Temple Scroll, the longest Dead Sea Scroll. This scroll specifies that all latrines built within a mile of the City of the Holy One (Jerusalem) must be roofed: “You shall make them a place for a hand [to defecate], outside the city, to which they shall go out, to the northwest of the city, where they shall make roofed buildings with pits within them, into which the excrement will descend [so that] it will [not] be visible at any distance from the city, three thousand cubits.”

Josephus apparently knew of latrines just northwest of the gate. The historian states that the western part of Jerusalem’s First Wall “extended [south] through the place called Bethso to the Gate of the Essenes.” The name “Bethso” probably derives from the Hebrew beth-soa, literally house of excrement, or latrines.