JTA NEWS
18 November 2017 - 1 Kislev 5778 - א' כסלו ה' אלפים תשע"ח
JTA NEWS :
Excavations reveal 2,000-year-old stone-vessel quarry E-mail

Arare workshop for the production of chalkstone vessels, dated to the Roman period, is currently being excavated at Reina in Lower Galilee, Israel.

Excavations are unearthing a small cave in which archaeologists have found thousands of chalkstone cores and other types of production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production. The discovery provides fascinating evidence of the central place of ritual purity in the daily lives of Galilean Jews during the time of Jesus.

The ancient site was uncovered during the course of construction work at a municipal sports centre conducted by the Reina local council. This is the fourth workshop of its kind ever to have been uncovered in Israel; an additional workshop is currently being excavated near Reina, located one kilometre from the current site. The two remaining known sites were uncovered decades ago far to the south, in the Jerusalem area.

According to Dr Yonatan Adler, Senior Lecturer at Ariel University and director of the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “In ancient times, most tableware, cooking pots and storage jars were made of pottery. In the first century of the Common Era, however, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee also used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone.”

As Adler explained, the reason for this curious choice of material seems to have been religious. “According to ancient Jewish ritual law, vessels made of pottery are easily made impure and must be broken. Stone, on the other hand, was thought to be a material which can never become ritually impure, and as a result ancient Jews began to produce some of their everyday tableware from stone. Although chalkstone vessels are well-known at many Jewish sites throughout the country, it is extremely unusual to uncover a site where such vessels where actually produced. Today we are excavating a second site near Reina, located one kilometre from here. Until today, only two other similar sites have been excavated, however both of these were in the area of Jerusalem. Our excavations are highlighting the pivotal role of ritual purity observance not only in Jerusalem but in far-off Galilee as well.”

The excavations have revealed an artificially hewn cave from which ancient workers quarried the raw material for the chalkstone vessels. Ancient chisel marks cover the walls, ceiling and floor of the cave. Inside the cave and on the ground nearby are strewn thousands of stone cores, the ancient industrial waste from stone mugs and bowls produced on a lathe. Hundreds of unfinished vessels were also found, apparently damaged during the production process and discarded on-site.

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