An­cient Quarry & Stone Ves­sel Fac­tory Dis­cov­ered in Galilee

The Jewish Voice - - ISRAEL - By: Brian Blum

If you were throw­ing a party in first cen­tury CE Galilee, would you use pots and table­ware made from the finest lo­cal pot­tery, or the in­ex­pen­sive chalk­stone plates?

If you cared about the rit­ual pu­rity of your guests, you’d go with the cheaper chalk­stone.

New light has been shed on this ques­tion with the dis­cov­ery of a 2,000-year-old stone ves­sel quarry and pro­duc­tion cen­ter at Reineh near the city of Nazareth in the Lower Galilee. The an­cient site was un­cov­ered dur­ing the course of con­struc­tion work at a new mu­nic­i­pal sports cen­ter in Reineh.

“Ac­cord­ing to an­cient Jewish rit­ual law, ves­sels made of pot­tery are eas­ily made im­pure and must be bro­ken,” ex­plained Prof. Yonatan Adler of Ariel Univer­sity and direc­tor of the excavations con­ducted on be­half of the Is­rael An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity.

“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.”

In­deed, the jars filled with wa­ter which the Gospels say Je­sus turned into wine were made of chalk­stone. And the wed­ding at Cana nar­ra­tive in the Gospel of John (John 2:6) re­lates, “Now there were six stone wa­ter jars set there for the Jewish cus­tom of pu­rifi­ca­tion, con­tain­ing twenty or thirty gal­lons each.”

The Reineh excavations un­earthed a small cave in which ar­chae­ol­o­gists have found thou­sands of chalk­stone cores and other types of pro­duc­tion waste, in­clud­ing frag­ments of stone

“Ac­cord­ing to an­cient Jewish rit­ual law, ves­sels made of pot­tery are eas­ily made im­pure and must be bro­ken,”

han­dled mugs and bowls in var­i­ous stages of pro­duc­tion.

This is the fourth chalk­stone work­shop of its kind dis­cov­ered in an­cient Is­rael; two are in the Galilee and two in the Jerusalem area.

Al­though chalk­stone ves­sels have been found at many ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in Is­rael, in­clud­ing Kfar Kana, Sep­pho­ris (Tzi­pori) and Nazareth, “it is ex­tremely un­usual to un­cover a site where such ves­sels were ac­tu­ally pro­duced,” Adler said. “Our excavations are high­light­ing the piv­otal role of rit­ual pu­rity ob­ser­vance not only in Jerusalem but in faroff Galilee as well.”

Stone ves­sels un­earthed in­side the an­cient work­shop at Reineh. Photo by Sa­muel Ma­gal/Is­rael An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity

Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal excavations in­side the an­cient stone-ves­sel work­shop. Photo by Sa­muel Ma­gal/Is­rael An­tiq­ui­ties Au­thor­ity

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