As his first miracle, Jesus turned six stone jars of water into wine for celebrants at a wedding.
It was in the city of Cana and now, archaeologists think they know where those stone jars were made.
A 2,000-year-old quarry and workshop were discovered in lower Galilee at Reina by a group of Israeli archaeologists working for the country’s Antiquities Authority.
The chalkstone quarry was discovered between Nazareth and the village of Kana. It’s only one of four stoneware workshops found by archaeogists in Israel.
Stoneware was relatively common in Jesus’ time, but its use increased during that period, probably for ritual purity reasons, the Times of Israel reports.
“In ancient times, most tableware, cooking pots and storage jars were made of pottery. In the first century of the Common Era, however, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee also used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone,” said Dr. Yonatan Adler, director of the excavation. “In ancient times, most tableware, cooking pots and storage jars were made of pottery. In the first century of the Common Era, however, Jews throughout Judea and Galilee also used tableware and storage vessels made of soft, local chalkstone.”
“According to ancient Jewish ritual law, vessels made of pottery are easily made impure and must be broken,” he 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.”
What’s unusual is to find a production center for the vessels. The four locations highlight “the pivotal role of ritual purity observance not only in Jerusalem but in far-off Galilee as well,” said Adler.
The small cave in Reina was uncovered during the construction of a municipal sports center. So far archaeologists have unearthed thousands of pieces of chalkstone that were scooped out from the inside of cups and bowls as they were formed, and other types of production waste, including fragments of stone mugs and bowls in various stages of production, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Reina find is “very exciting,” said Yardenna Alexandre, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority who specializes in the study of Roman Era Galilee.
“Throughout the years we have been discovering fragments of these kinds of stone vessels alongside pottery in excavations of houses in both rural and urban Jewish sites from the Roman period, such as at Kafr Kanna, Sepphoris and Nazareth. Now, for the first time, we have an unprecedented opportunity to investigate a site where these vessels were actually produced in Galilee.”
The workshop is tucked inside an artificial cave. Hundreds of damaged or unfinished vessels were also discovered.
“The production waste indicates that this workshop produced mainly handled mugs and bowls of various sizes. The finished products were marketed throughout the region here in Galilee, and our finds provide striking evidence that Jews here were scrupulous regarding the purity laws,” said Adler.
“The observance of these purity laws was widespread not only in Jerusalem, but also throughout Judea as well as Galilee at least until the Bar Kokhba rebellion which ended in 135 CE. The current excavations will hopefully help us answer the question of how long these laws continued to be observed among the Jews of Galilee during the course of the Roman period,” he said.