The Pentateuchal Dietary Proscription against Finless and Scaleless Aquatic Species in Light of Ancient Fish RemainsIf you want something less technical, Lina Zeldovich has published an informative article in Smithsonian Magazine: What Archaeology Tells Us About the Ancient History of Eating Kosher. A new study of fish remains deepens scholars’ understanding of how the dietary laws came to be.
Yonatan Adlern & Omri Lernau
Pages 5-26 | Published online: 24 May 2021
Download citation https://doi.org/10.1080/03344355.2021.1904675
The origins and early history of the pentateuchal prohibition against eating finless and scaleless aquatic species (Lev 11:9–12; Deut 14:9–10) has yet to merit a detailed investigation. The present study is an initiatory attempt to attend to this lacuna by analysing 56 zooarchaeological assemblages of fish remains from 30 sites throughout the southern Levant from the Late Bronze Age through to the end of the Byzantine period (ca. 1550 BCE to 640 CE). A central conclusion of the study is that consumption of scaleless fish— especially catfish—was not uncommon at Judean sites throughout the Iron Age and Persian periods. Unlike the pentateuchal prohibitions against eating pork, the ban against finless and scaleless aquatic species apparently deviated from longstanding Judean dietary habits. The pentateuchal writers appear to have legislated this dietary restriction despite the lack of an old and widespread dietary tradition at its root. This conclusion should encourage us to rethink commonly held assumptions that other pentateuchal dietary proscriptions emerged out of earlier dietary ‘taboos’.
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