The mortar and grinder are basic food-preparation tools found in all parts of the ancient world. The mortar is the bowl-shaped vessel; the grinder is the smaller stone tool. Some people still use similar tools to crush or grind ingredients for cooking.
The ancient Israelites grew wheat and barley. After separating the edible part of the grain from the inedible husk, they used a mortar and grinder to grind the grain into flour. (They also sometimes used a quern—a pair of flat stones between which the grain was ground). Then they added a little bit of water to the flour to make dough, and baked the dough into bread. The grain could also be used to make porridge or fermented to produce beer.
The mortar and grinder shown here are made from a rough type of volcanic stone called basalt. The texture of the basalt is very coarse, which made it especially effective for grinding. Unfortunately, little bits of the stone would sometimes break off into the flour, making Israelite bread rather gritty and hard on the teeth.
Archaeological finds like the mortar and grinder, iron hoe, and strainer jug give archaeologists clues about what the ancient Israelites ate, how they obtained their food, and how they prepared it.