Friday, March 29, 2019

More on the Sharafat excavation

ARCHAEOLOGY: Archaeologists Find Tomb of the Richest of the Rich in Second Temple-era Jerusalem. The Jewish villagers seem to have done very well for themselves from exporting olive oil and wine 2,000 years ago, though what they did with their pigeons is anyone's guess (Ruth Schuster, Haaretz).
The excavation of the site is still in its early stages, but the archaeologists have found categorical signs that the village was populated by Jews. They have found two ritual baths, one of which is enormous and the other typical of the time, and part of a stone vessel characteristic of early Jewish adherence to kashrut, Jewish dietary laws. The stone remnant looks rather like the lid of a sugar bowl, says Yaakov Billig, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who is the director of the excavation.

According to Jewish dietary guidelines, if pottery is contaminated by non-kosher food, it cannot be cleaned and must be thrown away. Stone vessels, on the other hand, by definition, cannot be contaminated. “You could store anything in stone vessels: wine, oil, cornflakes, wheat, whatever,” Billig says. Such stone vessels have been found in huge numbers in ancient Jewish settlements, and are especially common in the vicinity of Temple Mount, he adds.

The archaeologists also found a burial complex at Sharafat that is carved out of the bedrock and which is also typical of ancient Jewish interment practice. It’s a relatively impressive structure that is also of impressive dimensions. The scientists can’t explore the tomb or others in the ancient village because of potential conflict with the ultra-Orthodox community, which opposes any possible desecration of Jewish dead.
I noted this story in a Jerusalem Post article yesterday, but this article has much more detail. There is also an article by Amanda Borschel-Dan in the Times of Israel: Large Hasmonean-era agricultural village found under Jerusalem Arab neighborhood. Impressive, multi-generation burial chamber and large dovecote point to well-heeled settlement in rural area, near today’s Biblical Zoo.

For more on ritual baths, stone vessels, and ritual purity, see here.

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