Pig Husbandry in Iron Age Israel

Newly published-

Lidar Sapir-Hen, Guy Bar-Oz, Yuval Gadot and Israel Finkelstein, Pig Husbandry in Iron Age Israel and Judah: New Insights Regarding the Origin of the “Taboo”, ZDPV 129.

Here’s the opening:

The biblical prohibition against the consumption of pork (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8), observed in Judaism for over two millennia, is the reason for the special attention paid to the appearance of pig bones in Iron Age strata in the southern Levant. Scholars have assumed that archaeology can shed light on the date of the emergence of this taboo, its role in the shaping of Israelite identity and its function in forming cultural boundaries with neighboring cultures. HESSE reviewed the zooarchaeological data and demonstrated that pig frequencies at sites from the Iron Age are very low, except for Philistine sites, which showed a dramatic increase in pig bones in the Iron Age I. Yet HESSE and WAPNISH concluded that, due to the diverse factors influencing pig frequencies, the absence / presence of this species is insufficient to distinguish between groups of different ethnic origins.

The absence of pig bones at Iron Age I sites in the highlands and their exceptional abundance at contemporaneous Philistian sites had an enormous impact and scholars assumed that all early Israelites did not consume pork throughout the Iron Age 4. FINKELSTEIN argued that the absence / presence of pigs may be the only way to shed light on ethnic boundaries in the Iron Age I 5. However, the accumulation of new data in the 20 years following these influential articles has revealed new and intriguing patterns regarding pig husbandry in the Iron Age, placing the older assumptions regarding pig consumption in the Iron Age in question.

By reviewing the new data, we wish to question the notion that pork consumption is a way to distinguish Israelites / Canaanites from Philistines.

With thanks to Israel for pointing it out.

3 thoughts on “Pig Husbandry in Iron Age Israel

  1. Must be the year of the pig:

    Cf. Maeir, A. M., Hitchcock, L. A., and Kolska Horwitz, L. 2013. On the Constitution and Transformation of Philistine Identity. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 32 (2013): 1–38.


Comments are closed.