During construction work on
the eastern slope of Mt.
Scopus, a bulldozer broke through the ceiling of a large cave. It
became immediately apparent to archeologists that the cave was
man-made and had served as a quarry and workshop for the production
of stone vessels, of a type well known from the late Second
Temple period in Jerusalem.
This period was
characterized by increased observance of halachic (of the halacha,
Jewish Law) purity laws among the Jews. According to halacha,
stone vessels, unlike pottery vessels, do not become ritually impure.
Thus stone vessels were widely used as tableware, and for the storage
of water and food, and many have been uncovered in archeological
The site consists of two
separate underground cave complexes with a total area of about 5,000
sq.m., cut into a Senonian limestone layer. This rock formation was
chosen for its softness, suitable for the manufacture of such
vessels. The quarrying of rectangular stone blocks of about 1.5 x 0.7
m. left cutting grooves in the walls, floors and ceilings of the
cave. After cutting around the blocks, they were detached from the
bedrock by hammer-blows on metal wedges inserted behind them. From
these blocks the stone vessels were manufactured in the quarry, some
on lathes, some by hand.
Quantities of wasters of
stone vessels discarded during the various production stages, and
large numbers of cylindrical stone cores of different sizes (removed
from the vessels during lathe-turning) attest to the manufacture of
tens of thousands of items. Activity in the caves took place in the
1st century CE, until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 CE. Whole, undamaged vessels were not
found; they were apparently delivered to the markets of Jerusalem and