Yitzhak Magen

“Blessed are you, O Yahweh … who has commanded us to have clean [pure] hands.” In ancient times, Jews repeated this blessing as they ritually washed their hands—with pure water held in cups like these—before meals. The prayer is still recited by observant Jews today.

Originally identified as measuring cups because they range in size from 2 to 6 inches tall, these hand-chiseled mugs are now thought to have been the most common household mugs, used for both drinking and ritual washing. These damaged examples from the Hizma caves never made it to market. Many (including the mug at upper right) were punctured when the central core was removed—one of the last and most exacting stages of production.