Image: The cooking pots and the oil lamp found in the cistern. Credit: Vladimir Naykhin/IAA
Three intact cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp have provided Israeli archaeologists with the first evidence for the famine and terror that spread throughout Jerusalem during the Roman siege nearly 2,000 years ago.
According to Eli Shukron, excavation director at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), people went down into the cistern to secretly eat the food that was contained in the pots, hiding from the Roman soldiers and the Jewish rebels who would have tried to take away the frugal meal.
Despite remarkable resistance, the Jewish people were ultimately crushed. In 70 A.D., the Romans under Titus sacked the city and destroyed the second Temple, which, according to Jewish tradition, was built by King Herod the Great on the site of King Solomon’s temple. This was razed by the Babylonians around 587 B.C.
In his dramatic description of the famine, the historian recounted that Jewish rebels sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews. They concealed and ate whatever they had in hidden places in their homes.
Josephus wrote that many starving Jews would barter their possessions for small quantities of food — “one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor.”
“They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of their houses, where some, through extreme hunger, ate their grain as it was; others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table laid.”
The artifacts will go on display during a July 4 conference on the City of David, organized by the Megalim Institute.