Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The view from the garbage
The secrets of life in Second Temple-era Jerusalem can be found in a trash heap

Two discs made of bone, which apparently served as buttons, are among the objects found in the municipal dump that served Jerusalem at the end of the Second Temple era. These buttons were intended to be not only practical, but decorative as well. In addition the dump has yielded a handful of glass fragments, which testify to the use of prestigious objects.

However, the vast majority of finds at the dump were very much everyday objects: fragments of household utensils including cooking pots, storage jars, pottery and lamps, coins of low denominations and a large number of animal bones. The dump is located on the eastern slope of the hill where the City of David is located. It was first unearthed in 1867 by Charles Warren, and many other archaeologists excavated there after him, but they did not realize they were digging through garbage. Only in 1995 did Professor Ronny Reich, of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, and Eli Shukron, of the Antiquities Authority, who directed the dig at the site, realize it was a dump.

Interesting article. Apparently, only certain types of objects were tossed and there may be specific religious reasons for this. Example: Few stone domestic objects were found which might be explained by Jewish law at the time stating that stone utensils could not be ritually contaminated. Thus, no need to throw it out when contaminated. Also, not a single pig bone found so far. There's some other stuff that's interesting -- apparently only food/cooking remains have been found -- and too bad there's not more info on these other things.

It should keep researchers busy for decades. The stratigraphic possibilities are endless.