Certified pottery from the time of Jesus discovered in the Holy Land.
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In the first century AD, something amazing happened. God sent his son, Jesus, to live on this earth in the form of a human. Jesus was born into a Jewish home, and at that time, Judea was a province of Rome, the greatest empire in the world at the time. Religious Jews rejected the opulent, pantheon-worshipping lifestyle of the Romans, choosing instead to live a simpler lifestyle. This choice was reflected in everything from their coins, which featured Jewish symbols rather than pagan gods, to their pottery, which was plain and undecorated.
But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)
Yet even though the Jews chose simplicity, their pottery reflects the technological advancements of the Roman empire. During the Roman period, pottery became stronger, smoother, and thinner. Many larger vessels featured ribbing, which strengthened the sidewalls of the pottery. Vessels types included bowls, cooking pots, storage jars, jugs, juglets, and oil lamps.
When Jesus’s mother, Mary, prepared a meal for her family, she might have cooked a lentil stew in a cooking pot, a rounded vessel with handles on the rim. She would have retrieved the lentils from a large, bag-shaped storage jar. At harvest time, the family would have gathered their produce into storage jars and deposited them in the back room of the house for use throughout the year. Mary would have also needed water to cook the stew, so she might have taken a jug, a mid-sized vessel with a handle on one side of the neck, to the cistern, which collected and held rainwater. She would have lowered the jug into the cistern to fill it, drawing it up full.
Once Mary added all the necessary ingredients to the cooking pot, she would have set it directly in fire to cook. As the stew bubbled, she might have mixed dough for flatbread. This would require grinding wheat into flour and mixing in oil. The oil would have been stored in a juglet. Juglets were shaped like jugs but were smaller in size. When the dough was ready, Mary would have formed it into round discs and slapped them onto the sides of her tabun (ceramic oven) to cook.
Perhaps Joseph and Jesus returned home after a long day just as the sun was setting. As they entered their home, the pleasing aroma of savory lentil stew and fresh-baked bread would have greeted their nostrils. Joseph might have reached for an oil lamp nestled in a niche in the wall. Oil lamps were small, disc-shaped vessels. They featured a hole in the center to receive oil, and a flaring nozzle on one side that held a wick. Perhaps Jesus fetched the juglet of oil, and Joseph carefully filled the lamp. Taking a knife, Joseph would have trimmed the wick and, going to the courtyard, he would have taken a burning stick from the fire to light the lamp. As Joseph returned into the house, a pleasant glow would have penetrated the gathering shadows, providing just enough light for the family to enjoy a tasty meal together.
Mary might have dished up the stew into plain ceramic bowls, each just the right size for one portion of food. The family would have used the bread to sop up the stew rather than eating with utensils. Reclining around a low table, the family might have lingered over their meal, discussing the events of the day, or news from Jerusalem. Perhaps Jesus recounted something that he had learned from the Rabbi or recited a scripture that he had memorized.