The Masada Storerooms

Masada ruinsEven if you know that Masada was home to hundreds of Herod’s courtiers from 37BC and to almost a hundred Jewish rebels in 66AD seeing the many storerooms on Masada is still impressive. The storerooms take up a large area of Masada on the northern side of the rock plateau close to the Northern Palace. Some have been restored and others have only a few stones marking where the walls would have been. A black line on the walls indicates that the bottom section is the original wall and the upper section has been reconstructed. There were 29 storerooms built one next to the other in long rows. Each storeroom is 27 meters long and a couple of meters wide.

Herod kept the storerooms stocked with the finest foods which would be brought to Masada and stored in the storerooms in clay jars (amphorae). Each storeroom was used to hold a different commodity. This included essentials like olive oil, grains, nuts and seeds. Some of the food jars which were uncovered in archaeological explorations had labels carved onto them with the names of provisions they held. The labels included beans, figs, dates, wine (imported from Italy), fish and dried foods. It is believed that when Herod’s time on Masada came to an end food was left in the storerooms which was later used by others taking refuge on the remote rock plateau. During excavations remnants provisions were found in the storerooms including olive pits and grain seeds. An interesting feature in each storeroom is a hole in the floor so that if a jar broke and the contents ran out onto the floor they would run into the hole and could be gathered up and restored. Thanks to the dry climate the provisions could be stored for long periods. In addition to food the storerooms would have held medical supplies, cosmetics, weapons, toiletries and more for the residents of Herod’s royal palace.

Under the Jewish rebels the storerooms would also have been used to keep provisions. The Jewish Zealots were the last outpost during the Jewish Revolt and lived under Roman siege for three years. For that period they must have had supplies to survive, some of which were obtained from secret raids on villages near Ein Gedi by the Dead Sea. In the final hours before the Roman’s eventually managed to reach the top of Masada the Jews chose mass suicide rather than being captured.  The Roman historian Josephus wrote that the Jewish Zealots burnt all the possessions and public buildings on Masada but left the storeroom supplies to show that they had not died from hunger but rather because they chose death over slavery.

The long rectangular storerooms on Masada are one of the most impressive areas of the site. Visitors can look into the reconstructed storerooms and also look over the remains of storerooms which have been left as they were found. The storerooms were an essential element in the survival of the inhabitants in this remote, dry and harsh environment.


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