Special vessels show Jewish continuity in Israel after Roman destruction

The use of chalkstones vessels did not stop with the destruction of city in the second century CE as previously thought, but continued in the Galilee for at least two more centuries.

Sepphoris (Tzipori) - general view (photo credit: GRIFFIN AERIAL IMAGING)
Sepphoris (Tzipori) - general view
(photo credit: GRIFFIN AERIAL IMAGING)
New research offers insights on how Jewish life continued in the Land of Israel after the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans.
The use of chalkstones vessels, very common among the Jewish population during the Second Temple Period, did not stop with the destruction of city in the second century CE as previously thought, but continued in the Galilee, the new center of Jewish life, for at least another two centuries, a paper published in the May issue of the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) documented.
Several types and examples of such vessels have been unearthed in Tzipori (Sepphoris), Zeev Weiss, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who co-authored the paper together with Maya Sherman, Tami Zilberman and Gal Yasur, explained to The Jerusalem Post.
Whole Jar from the farmhouse, on the eastern outskirts of Sepphoris (Tzipori). (Photo credit: G. LARON)Whole Jar from the farmhouse, on the eastern outskirts of Sepphoris (Tzipori). (Photo credit: G. LARON)
“As an archaeologist studying the material culture of the Jewish society in the days following the destruction of the Second Temple, I was struck by the fact that these vessels could be found in several areas throughout the site,” he said. “We uncovered more and more evidence, including in the last season of excavations two years ago, and we were able to prove that they were in used in that period.”
The most accepted interpretation on the reason why chalkstone vessels were prevalent during the Second Temple Period is connected to Jewish purity laws. According to these laws, stone vessels did not receive impurity, while clay vessels were extremely susceptible to it and very hard to purify.
Tzipori was already a major Jewish center in the first century CE and became even more important in the following decades: the great Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi moved the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Great Assembly – there in the second half of the second century, and the Mishna, the foundational text of rabbinic Judaism, was compiled in the city. Weiss has directed the excavations at the site for 30 years.
While most Jewish purity laws are strictly associated with Temple activity and therefore lost their practical meaning after its destruction, some aspects of the purity rituals survived, such as the custom of immersing in ritual baths – mikvaot – which is part of Jewish life to this today. Mikvaot were also uncovered in Tzipori.
The researchers identified several types of vessels, including bowls, cups, mugs and jars. For some of them, the typological analysis suggested they were unique to the Galilee, while other resembled those found in Jerusalem and in other sites. Moreover, the group was able to identify the source of the material used to manufacture them, which in many cases came from local quarries. Weiss pointed out that even though so far they have not uncovered the workshops it is logical to think that they were therefore also produced in the area.
“The problem with the previous theory was that they checked sites which were destroyed by the Romans after the second Jewish revolt and in those sites everything was terminated.” Weiss pointed out. “However in the Galilee and especially in Tzipori, life continued beyond it, they did not suffer from the revolt. Jews maintained their practices and one of the practices was the use of these stone vessels, like they continued to immerse in ritual baths.”
“In the future I think that the question of whether the chalkstone vessels were used in other sites of the Galilee should be explored,” he concluded.