Livestock animal trends in Idumaean Maresha: Preliminary analysis of cultural and economic aspects

Lee Perry-Gal, Guy Bar-Oz, Adi Erlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper provides preliminary results of our ongoing analysis of faunal remains from the Idumean site of Maresha, a site located in the Shephelah region of Israel and dated to the 4th-2nd centuries BCE. The Zooarchaeological research in this key site is an efficient tool for portraying the social and cultural character of the site during the Hellenistic period. We sampled animal bones from several subterranean complexes in order to characterize the subsistence practices of the site's inhabitants. The explored dietary habits provide new lines of evidence regarding the cultural identity of its population. The livestock of Maresha is dominated by sheep and goats (60%), cattle (18%), domestic fowl (13%) and pigs (9%). We highlight the main characteristics of the faunal assemblage and draw broad conclusions regarding differences and similarities in its dietary habits in the context of contemporaneous sites from the region. The high abundance of fowls and pigs show clear differences between Maresha and nearby chronologically matched sites. Another interesting characteristic of the Maresha faunal assemblage is the abundance of sheep and goat astragali (knuckle bones) that are widely, yet differentially, dispersed across the site (NISP=512). We found direct connection between the amount of astragali in certain areas and their function. Underground rooms that show ritual activity are rich with inscribed astragali, while other contexts are not. For instance, in area 89, where an altar was excavated, we found the highest amount of astragali, many of them bear the names of gods. This discovery further illuminates the spiritual world and socio-cultural aspects of the Idumean people of Maresha.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
Issue number1&2
StatePublished - Oct 2015


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