History and Archaeology

2000 Years Ago They Kept Kosher

In case you were curious what people ate 2000 years ago, archaeology students from Tel Aviv University were also curious. They went digging in the refuse dumps of ancient Jerusalem and unearthed some 5,000 animal bones from the area in the National Park of the City of David. Results show that the meat Jerusalemites of yore ate was predominantly sheep and goats. There were far less birds and cows in their diet. Pigs and doves were totally absent from their diet though doves are kosher.

Dr. Sapir Chen Leader from the archaeology department in TAU explains: “For 3 years we dug in the refuse dumps of ancient Jerusalem finding remains from the second temple period. We gathered bones of animals that were thrown there. These are the remnants of the food Jerusalemites ate at the time of the second temple and they helped us learn about their way of life.”

Sapir Chen maintains: “In contrast to finding coins which teach less about the day to day lives of people who lived in the past, when we investigate animal bones we learn a lot more about the people. This is a rare window into their society and culture.”

Dr. Sapir Chen adds another interesting point: ‘in our research we also checked the age of the animals consumed and we came to the conclusion that Jerusalemites ate animals that were relatively older which are considered less tender and of lower quality. This tells us these people were not for the city’s elite class. In addition, we found that raising and consuming doves was done only within the framework of the holy Temple services for we found their remains only in the refuse dump right near the Temple mount whereas in dumps further away there were no dove bones to be found at all. Likewise there were no pig bones which is testimony that they kept kosher in those days.” 


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