Digging in a cave in northern Israel known as Einot Amitai, archaeologists have discovered what appears to be 2,000-year-old stoneware factory. Robin Ngo comments on its significance:
“Stone vessels played an integral role in the daily religious lives of Jews during [the 1st century CE],” explained the archaeologist Yonatan Adler, a senior lecturer at Ariel University. “It was a Jewish ‘stone age’ of sorts.”
Adler and Dennis Mizzi [of] the University of Malta are co-directors of the excavation at Einot Amitai. . . . Located on the western slopes of Har Yonah near Nazareth, Einot Amitai features a massive cave hewn into a chalkstone hill. The archaeologists discovered in their inaugural excavation season this summer chalkstone vessels at different stages of production, suggesting that the cave functioned as a workshop.
While vessels—from tableware to cooking pots to storage jars—were usually made of clay in antiquity, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee in the 1st century CE used vessels made of stone.
According to the purity laws observed by Jews in ancient times, metal or clay vessels could become ritually contaminated, in which case they often had to be destroyed. Stone vessels, which couldn’t contract impurity, were therefore seen as advantageous—a fact noted in the New Testament:
The gospel of John alludes to the Jewish custom of using stone vessels: “Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from 20 to 30 gallons.”