A rare stone box with nine compartments, dating back approximately 2000 years, is being exhibited to the public for the first time in an exposition in the archaeology wing of the Israel Museum.

The container, exceptional in its design, was discovered in excavations by the Antiquities Authority in the City of David, within the National Park around the walls of ancient Jerusalem.

The box is square in shape, measuring 30 x 30 centimeters, and is made of carved soft limestone. It is divided into nine square compartments, similar in size and volume.

The sides of the object, unearthed in excavations along the stepped street in the City of David, within a layer of destruction from the end of the Second Temple period, are blackened, apparently burned during the events of the Great Revolt that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.

The object was found among the remains of a building adjacent to the stepped street and served as a shop. Researchers estimate that the object was used for commercial activities and the display of goods in small quantities and measures.

According to the excavation directors, Dr. Yuval Baruch and Ari Levi of the Antiquities Authority, in the excavations of the stepped street, where the box was discovered, many other objects were also found that testify to the thriving commercial activity that took place there. Among other findings, ceramic and glass vessels, mobile and stationary production facilities, kitchen installations, volume measuring instruments, coins, and stone weights of different values were found, all of which testify to commercial activity in a bustling urban market that operated along the street. The street, which was the main artery of the city 2000 years ago, served pilgrims and connected the Pool of Siloam with the Temple Mount. Therefore, it seems that the compartmentalized container is also somehow related to the unique Jerusalem economy, which was conducted in the shadow of the Temple and under the observance of purity and impurity laws. Therefore, it can also be considered a distinctive archaeological find from Jerusalem.

But what was the compartmentalized object used for? Fragments of a similar object were discovered about 50 years ago by the archaeologist Nahman Avigad in the excavations of the Jewish Quarter, and he humorously dubbed it the “appetizer bowl”. This nickname “stuck” to the object, and since then it has also been used by some researchers working on the subject.

Since then, more fragments of this type of object have been discovered, all of them in Jerusalem, and especially in the excavations of the City of David, but the one recently discovered is the only complete example known in archaeological research. However, at this stage of the investigation, the answer to the puzzle of the object and its purpose has yet to be found.

According to Dudu Moreh, a senior curator in the Department of Archaeology at the Israel Museum, the box was found broken into many fragments, with parts of it missing. The fragments were transferred to the artifact conservation laboratory of the Israel Museum, where they were restored and reconstructed by conservation experts.


Israel Antiquities Authority

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