Sunday, September 18, 2016

Animal bones and the Jerusalem Temple

THE ASOR BLOG: Animal Economy in a Temple City and Its Countryside: Iron Age Jerusalem as a Case Study (Lidar Sapir-Hen, Yuval Gadot, and Israel Finkelstein).
Iron Age Jerusalem is the subject of perennial interest, but archaeological understanding of how the city functioned economically has grown more slowly. Our paper is an effort to understand aspects of life in Jerusalem and its hinterland in the first millennium BCE. In it we compared the animal economies of two sites that are part of one system: elite building at the capital city of Jerusalem, and an administrative center located several kilometers to its west. The results enabled us to gain insights into rural-urban relationships and socio-political mechanisms in the Iron Age Levant. These include understanding regional economic connections, the centralized temple economy and the class system.

This in particular caught my eye:
The reported assemblages differ in the prominence of various livestock animals and in patterns of their exploitation. We found that while the Western Wall Plaza’s inhabitants focused on meat consumption and did not engage in actual herding, the inhabitants of Tel Moza focused on agriculture and producing caprines’ secondary products, probably supplying sheep and cattle to Jerusalem.


Finally, our study reveals a class system within Jerusalem. When comparing our results to previous results from several locations, our study also demonstrates socio-economic stratification. People living in locations close to the Temple Mount show a higher economic standing of their inhabitants compared to those in a neighborhood on the southeastern slope of the “City of David” ridge. The higher-status neighborhoods seem to have received meat through a redistribution mechanism, possibly also through the sacrificial refuse from the Temple. While those residing next to the Temple enjoyed prime meat-cuts and were not engaged in actual herding or agriculture, lower-status groups showed some level of agriculture and working of secondary products. The “City of David” ridge is the only area within the city suitable for conducting small-scale agriculture. That Temple and palace’ elite of Jerusalem had specialized herders of caprines is well attested in other studies, showing herding of “royal” herds in the Judean Desert.
This looks like it adds up to indirect, but pretty clear, archaeological evidence for the existence of the First Temple on the Temple Mount in the late Iron Age II. This sort of statistical analysis of biological material remains has a lot to contribute to our understanding of antiquity. Cross-file under Temple Mount Watch.