Biblical Archaeology Review 37:5, September/October 2011

Strata: What Is It?

A. A child’s cup

B. A ritual incense holder

C. A festival wine cup

D. An inkwell

E. A magical potion holder

Answer: (D) Inkwell

One of possibly two inkwells found at the Galilean town of Nabratein, the excavators date it to the Roman period, perhaps as late as the 3rd century C.E.1 The inkwell is a little more than an inch and a half high and across.

Inkwells from the early Roman period have been found at a number of sites, most notably Qumran, where three or possibly more inkwells were excavated or looted. Inkwells have also been found at Meiron, a Jewish town near Nabratein; at Jerusalem (two in the so-called “Burnt House”a); and at a site in Jordan (Queilbeh).

At Qumran, near the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, inkwells have been taken as evidence of literary activity.b Is the same true at Nabratein? Not necessarily, according to the excavators. The inkwell(s) could mean simply that legal or business documents were drawn up here. This view is supported by the fact that the Nabratein examples were found in what seems to be a commercial building.

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