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Recent archaeological excavations in Jerusalem reveal adherence—and disobedience—to kosher laws.
 
11/26/2020
 

Clean and Unclean Foods in Ancient Jerusalem

Recent archaeological excavations in Jerusalem reveal adherence—and disobedience—to kosher laws.

BY CHRISTOPHER EAMES

When we write about archaeological discoveries, we often describe pottery, inscriptions, tools, jewelry, etc. But alongside all the pottery comes a plethora of animal bones—and these are a vital part of the archaeological (or more properly, archaeozoological) research of a given ancient community, of what they ate. After all, we are what we eat, right?

So what “were” the ancient inhabitants of Jerusalem?

It is well known that the Bible commands the consumption of only kosher foods. No pig. Only land-based, cud-chewing animals with cloven hooves. Fish with fins and scales. Etc. These laws are detailed in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, said to have been written circa 1400 b.c.e. by the hand of Moses.

From circa 1000 to 586 b.c.e. (the period known as Iron Age ii), Jerusalem was the Jewish capital. Based on archaeological excavations in this city, then, just how well did the Jewish population of Jerusalem adhere to the kosher laws? Do the discoveries back up the biblical account of Jewish religious observance?

 
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