Rare 2,000-year-old stone workshop and quarry discovered in Israel’s Galilee

Archaeologists excavating a site in Reina, in the Lower Galilee region of Israel, have uncovered what they believe was a production site for the manufacture of stone mugs and bowls that were used by Jews in the area who adhered to very strict purity laws 2,000 years ago.

The excavators unearthed a cave in which they found thousands of chalkstone cores and other types of production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production, the Israel Antiquities Authority reported.

The stone vessels provide a tantalizing link to the New Testament story of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle — transforming water held in six stone containers into wine.

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Most tableware, cooking pots and storage jars at the time were made of pottery, but “Jews throughout Judea and Galilee also used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone,” said the excavation’s director, Dr. Yonatan Adler, a senior lecturer at Ariel University. Reina is located 26 miles east of the city of Haifa.

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

The excavators found thousands of stone cores, the industrial waste from stone mugs and bowls produced on a lathe, along with hundreds of unfinished vessels they believe were damaged during production and discarded. The large number of cores and vessel fragments suggests that the location was a production site.

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