Plant Remains from Rothenberg’s Excavations in Timna: Smelters’ Food and Cultic Offerings at the Turn of the First Millennium BCE

Michal David, Mordechai Kislev, Yoel Melamed, Erez Ben-Yosef, Ehud Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In the 1960s and 1970s, two copper-smelting sites (Sites 2 and 30) and a cultic place (the ‘Hathor Shrine’, Site 200) were excavated by Beno Rothenberg’s ‘Arabah Expedition’ in the Timna Valley. They yielded rich archaeobotanical assemblages, most of which were never published. These data provide a rare opportunity to reconstruct plant food aspects of the daily lives of copper smelters. In this study, we were able to locate and identify some 10,000 plant remains, dated to the final phase of the Late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age (the 13th–9th centuries BCE). Most of the finds are fruits (grape, date, fig and olive). We suggest that this evidence represents dried or pickled fruits, consumed by the smelters throughout the day due to their calorie-rich value and ease of use. Plant-based food preparation was probably carried out elsewhere, in ephemeral tent encampments. In addition, the shrine’s plant assemblage, which includes the same species found in the smelting camps, suggests that the metalworkers used their food as an offering to the goddess Hathor (and possibly also to other deities).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-249
Number of pages20
JournalTel Aviv
Volume49
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Archaeobotany
  • Copper production
  • Food plants
  • Fruits
  • Iron Age
  • Late Bronze Age
  • Timna Valley

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