A pot is a pot is a pot—until you find one perforated by dozens of small holes. That is what happened at Batash.

Ovoid, wide-mouthed, two-handled vessels—like this one, but without the holes—appear frequently in late seventh-century B.C. levels. Their unadorned surfaces bear regular, parallel, hardly discernible ridges, the sign of a pot turned on a wheel, a pot whose moist clay was smoothed between the potter’s fingers as he gave the wheel another twirl to preserve its spin.

In the debris of a house at Batash destroyed by the Babylonians in about 600 B.C., we found some pottery fragments pierced by holes before firing. When pieced together these sherds became a 23-inch-high pot that was a sport, a mutant of our familiar, rather homely, basic ovoid vessel.

No other such pot has turned up so far at Batash. In fact, the only other one I know of anywhere is a jar found in a cultic corner at Megiddo, in a stratum dated to the time of Solomon in the late tenth century B.C. The cultic nature of this location at Megiddo was assumed from the altars and cultic stands that were found there.

No doubt, the perforated pots from Megiddo and Batash were used for straining. But for what? Did they strain liquids to be caught and saved, as in the preparation of beer from barley dough? Or did they trap desirable solids, as we today strain spaghetti or rice, while allowing useless fluids to drip out and flow away? Or did the strainer simply separate solid from liquid, saving both for unknown purposes?

The design of the vessel, with holes covering its entire surface, seems poorly planned for collection of the extracted fluid. The liquid would dribble out of the entire surface in a way that would be awkward to direct and catch. So it seems more likely that the solid residue was the objective. But with our meager information we have only our imaginations to turn to.

Was the strainer pot used to prepare some mash for food? Was it employed to separate seeds from pulp? Was it inserted into a huge cultic teapot? Or was water poured into the pot’s mouth to create a shower required in a purification ritual?

If any reader can propose a better solution, please let us know.