Between cities and villages: the livestock economy in historical Palestine

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This study aims at establishing a historically based model of animal husbandry in urban and rural settlements, in the Southern Levant. This type of model is required in the field of zooarchaeology, to better analyze and study ancient faunal remains. It also applies a non-traditional method to study and differentiate between urban and rural economies. For this aim, we used British Mandate tax files and village statistics. These are the best available historical documents for this period, that recorded herds management statistics in all settlements of Palestine. We selected only settlements inhabited by the indigenous population and divided the data into four environmental regions. We analyzed the livestock abundance and herd demography in each region. Each urban center was considered independently, while the rural villages were classified into three groups, based on the most common livestock (cattle, sheep, or goats). Results show economic variations between urban and rural settlements as well as regional trends, such as in pastoralism and agricultural management. In addition, meat industries were common in most urban centers, being the primary difference from rural economies. We applied this model to two large zooarchaeological case studies, dating from the Early Islamic to the Ottoman period; Mount Zion, located in the urban city of Jerusalem, and Tel Beth Shemesh (East), whose size and nature were not historically recorded. We found that the economic variations reflected in the model were also present in the faunal assemblages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2024


  • Herd management
  • Historical archaeology
  • Livestock economy
  • Urban and rural economy
  • Zooarchaeology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology

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