Second Temple workshop for ritually pure stone vessels discovered near Jerusalem

And if any of those falls into an earthen vessel, everything inside it shall be unclean and [the vessel] itself you shall break.




(the israel bible)

September 20, 2023

2 min read

The Civil Administration’s Archaeology Unit announced on Tuesday that they discovered a Second Temple (516 BCE-70 C.E.) workshop to manufacture stone utensils and vessels. The site is located between Geva Binyamin/Adam and Kfar Hizma, north of Jerusalem.

“During an excavation administered by the Staff Officer for Archaeology in the Civil Administration, remains were uncovered not only of tools but of an entire production center, which included several quarries,” a spokesperson for the Civil Administration told local media.

“During the Second Temple period, it was customary to use stone utensils, ” the spokesperson added. “Stone utensils have been discovered and are being found at almost every site, in various forms– cups, bowls, trays and various other utensils that are meticulously styled and designed.”

The Second Temple period was characterized by increased observance of purity laws among the Jews. According to halacha, stone vessels do not become ritually impure, unlike the more commonly utilized pottery vessels. Thus, stone vessels were widely used as tableware and for storing water and food, and many have been uncovered in archeological excavations.

As Archaeologist Yitzhak Magen explained in an article titled “Ancient Israel’s Stone Age”:

“Laws of ritual purity and impurity are of Biblical origin (Leviticus 11:33 ff.). During the Second Temple period, however, the rules were greatly expanded. Most of the purity laws relate to rites in the Temple. But the territory of the Temple was at least metaphorically expanded beyond the Temple confines, and ritual cleanliness was not limited to the bounds of the Temple but spread through the Jewish community. The laws affected ordinary people.”

“It made sense to purchase a vessel that could not become unclean, for once a vessel became ritually unclean, it had to be taken out of use. An impure pottery vessel, for example, had to be broken.”

This aspect of Jewish law was alluded to in the New Testament in the Gospel of John, which relates the first miracle attributed to Jesus that Christians believe took place at a wedding feast in Cana. In the Gospel account, Jesus, his mother and his disciples are invited to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. When his mother notices that the wine has run out, Jesus delivers a sign of his divinity by turning water into wine at her request. The location of Cana has been subject to debate among biblical scholars and archaeologists; several villages in Galilee are possible candidates.

The account is taken as evidence of Jesus’ approval of marriage and earthly celebrations and has also been used as an argument against teetotalism. The reference to stone vessels may be a hint that as a Jew who frequented the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus was scrupulous concerning the rabbinic laws of purity.

A similar site was discovered in the summer of 1999 on the northern slope of one of the eastern promontories extending from the Mount Scopus and Mount of Olive ridges during construction work for a new road. Similar remains of quarrying and vessel production were found in the area of Jerusalem in Jebel Mukkabar, near Hizma, and at Tell-el Ful. Activity in the caves took place in the 1st century CE, until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE.

“Two thousand years later, we are privileged to continue the work of our ancestors here and widen the road from the Binyamin communities to Jerusalem,” commented the Binyamin Regional Council, which has jurisdiction over large parts of southern Samaria.

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