Biblical Archaeology Review 9:6, November/December 1983

Jerusalem Flourishing—A Craft Center for Stone, Pottery, and Glass

By Nahman Avigad

If Jerusalem is famous for one thing, it is for being a religious center. But our interest in the Holy Cities lies also in its everyday life, of which so little is known. Recent investigations revealed that in ancient times, especially in the late Second Temple period (50 B.C.–70 A.D.), various arts and crafts, such as stonework, painted pottery and glass industry, flourished in Jerusalem.

To understand these crafts is to add a new dimension to our understanding of life in the Holy City. From these crafts we learn about the world of the craftspeople who produced the artifacts, about the art and culture their products reflected, and about the people who used them. A knowledge of these crafts breathes new reality into the ancient world we are trying to understand.

For 14 years, between 1969 and 1983, I directed archaeological excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, within the area of Jerusalem where its Upper City was located. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City had been largely destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948. When the Jewish Quarter was reconstructed after the 1967 Six Day War, we took the opportunity to investigate the site, which had never been excavated before. Our archaeological excavations provided some of the most important evidence yet uncovered concerning Jerusalem as an ancient craft center. Foremost among these crafts was one that utilized the common raw material naturally available locally—stone.

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