Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie und Provinzialrömische Archäologie

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Dr. Abra Spiciarich

Dr. Abra Spiciarich

Visiting Researcher (Feodor Lynen-Minerva Stiftung Postdoctoral Fellowship)


Projekt: "Urbanism and Purity: A Bioarchaeological Approach to Human-Animal Relations in Ancient Jerusalem"

Jerusalem is one of the most famous ancient cities in the world. The site's alternating political, economic, and cultic position in the later Iron Age through Hellenistic periods (8th – 2nd centuries BCE) is well known from biblical sources but is only coming to light now with recent excavations in the ancient city. The use of livestock as sacrificial offering in Jerusalem is also well known from biblical sources, although the link between livestock and sacrifice is unknown from the study of Jerusalem’s archaeofaunal remains. Sheep, goat, cows, and pigs played an integral role in ancient daily life as sources of meat, wool, dairy, and agricultural labor, in addition they were fundamental to cultic prescriptions and identifiers of social identities. Human-animal relations before and after the Neo-Babylonian destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE–a critical period representing the time of biblical composition and redaction– is limited to circular arguments of presence or absence of taboo species. The research overcomes this obstacle by applying carbon, nitrogen, and strontium stable isotope analysis and ancient DNA analysis to animal remains from Area 10 of the Givati Parking Lot excavations in Jerusalem. Objectives of this scientific approach are: 1) to identify where livestock were raised and herded before being brought to Jerusalem; 2) to assess if the livestock herds are genetically related 3) to test if the herds possessed specific traits. These objectives will clarify the economic reach of the Jerusalem cult, seasonality which can be linked to the festival holidays, e.g., sukkot, what traits were selected by pastoralists, and if herds were maintained throughout the exilic period (6–5th centuries BCE). Through a bioarchaeological approach to the study of Jerusalem livestock this research will shed light on larger research queries about the use of animals in ancient cultic and urban economies.