The ability to store food is easily taken for granted in a modern context, but could easily spell the difference between life and death in the ancient world. Food storage was crucial to a family's ability to survive the winter each year, as well as its ability to survive crises such as famine or siege. The administrative ability of the Judean state to control and direct food resources was also fundamental to its citizenry's survival in such crises. The collection of vessels shown here comes from a service room in the House of Ahiel (named after the man whose name appears on clay shards also found in the house). Excavators discovered thirty-seven storage jars in the room, most of which had been marked by a rosette-type stamp impression. These stamp impressions were part of the state's administrative system for the distribution or taxation of produce in the last years of the kingdom of Judah, just prior to the destruction of 586 BCE.
The grinding of grains into flour was perhaps one of the most laborious and time-consuming aspects of food production in the ancient world and therefore a very regular part of domestic life. The tool used for grinding up the grains in ancient Judah consisted of a larger lower grinding stone, which served as the main grinding surface, and a smaller upper stone that was rubbed against the lower one. The grains, caught between the two stones, was crushed and pulverized, eventually broken into pieces small enough to serve as flour for baking The size of the lower grinding stone means that it would likely have been difficult to move, and suggests that the stone may be in, or close, to the place where it was used, in the service rooms of the House of Ahiel.See also: cooking pot and baking tray; clay oven.
This is a toilet installation in one of the service rooms to the north of the House of Ahiel in the City of David in Jerusalem. The installation was set into a thick plaster floor over a deep cess pit. Unsurprisingly, the excavations of the cesspit turned up faecal remains, as well as human parasite eggs and other organic matter, including fish bones. The presence of a stone toilet seat and cess pit shows a significant level of sophistication in the hygiene practices within the city, or at least in parts of it, while the remains from the cess pit shed light on the diet of the ancient inhabitants. The parasite eggs may reflect the difficulties brought upon the city by the prolonged siege of the Babylonian army in 588–586 BCE, while the fish bones suggest commercial activities between the city and traders operating more widely afield.
Elements of daily life are—by their very nature—often simple, practical and unassuming. They are not the elements that attract the eye of the visitor to a museum or exhibition, and rarely receive more than cursory attention. Yet food production and consumption is an essential part of life—and not merely from the point of view of subsistence. Customs and taboos relating to food appear in all cultures and are very frequently important in marking out both the shared practices of neighbouring cultures and their points of difference.See also: clay oven; grinding stone.
This clay miniature is from a tomb at Achziv. The subject of this tableaux is ambiguous, because of the rather rudimentary way it is modelled, but it is generally interpreted as representing a woman kneading the dough for baking. It is part of a wider tradition of figural representation in clay.
The Harvard Semitic Museum has produced a full scale reconstruction of a four-room house, the typical home in Iron Age Judah. The reconstruction gives an idea of what an Iron Age Judean house would have looked like, divided into four rooms or spaces: three spaces separated by large pillars, and a fourth space in the back. The reconstruction also shows an upper floor, which does not survive directly in the archaeological record, but may be assumed from the presence of staircases in these homes. The first photo shows a general view of the house, with a reconstructed loom on the upper floor. The second photo shows examples of foodstuffs available during the Iron Age and vessels used in food preperation. The third photo shows a mortar and pestle, a set of grinding stones, and storage vessels in the background.
This image shows the remains of a clay oven (tabun) just outside the House of Ahiel in Jerusalem, excavated as part of by Kathleen Kenyon's expedition to Jerusalem. Similar clay ovens are still in use in parts of the Middle East. They were (and still are) often found in courtyards, and are especially used for the preparation of flat bread.See also: cooking pot and baking tray; grinding stone.
The rosette seals appear on large numbers of storage jar handles, from the late seventh and early sixth centuries BCE. They represent an official, centralised marking system, a successor to the lmlk ('belonging to the king') stamps used during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. The group here also includes an unusual ink marking—a letter he or het, written in black ink—preserved on a complete storage vessel. The meaning of this sign on the vessel is unknown. It may have indicated something about the contents, or perhaps the provenance or destination of the vessel. This marking is exceptional, in that it is written in ink rather than incised or stamped on the vessel. However, this rarity may simply be the result of the reality of what survives in the archaeological record, because markings in ink are more likely than incisions to have been washed away or lost.