Contextualizing an Iron Age HA Hoard of Astragals from Tel Abel Beth Maacah, Israel

Matthew Susnow, Nimrod Marom, Ariel Shatil, Nava Panitz-Cohen, Robert Mullins, Naama Yahalom-Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Astragali, the knuckle or ankle bones of mammals, have been collected, used and modified by humans in different parts of the world for millennia. Large hoards dating from Iron Age IIA (tenth–ninth centuries bc) are attested at a number of sites in the southern Levant, and a recently discovered hoard of 406 astragali at Tel Abel Beth Maacah in northern Israel presents an opportunity to investigate this phenomenon, shed-ding light on the function of these bones and why they bore special status and meaning that crossed cultural and temporal boundaries. In this study, the zooarchaeological analysis of the astragali provides the basis for an extensive discussion of the hoard’s formation process and function that explores ethnographic literature, archaeological data and ancient Near Eastern and classical documentary sources. The findings of this study demonstrate that while the individual bones had many different functions, once deposited together the astragali took on a new meaning, possibly related to divinatory practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-83
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Mediterranean Archaeology
Volume34
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Tel Abel Beth Maacah excavations are co-directed by three of the authors (Naama Yahalom-Mack and Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University of Los Ange-les). The excavations and research are supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant (2017? 2020, grant no. 859/17) and by generous private donors. Licenses are granted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Excavation of the astragali was conducted by Jeff Kobs. Conservation and cleaning of the amphora and astragali were done by Miriam Lavi, the Conservation Laboratory of the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Restoration of the vessel was done by Ora Mazar. Ancient DNA analysis of the astragali was conducted by Conor Rossi in Dan Bradley?s laboratory at the Smurfit Insti-tute, Department of Genetics at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (the results were unfortunately inconclusive). Collagen prescreening and identification using FTIR was conducted by Matthew Susnow (under the guidance of Yotam Asscher, the Israel Antiquities Authority). This analysis as well as XRF and microscopy were performed at the Laboratory for Archaeological Materials and Ancient Technologies, while 3D scanning was performed at the Computational Archaeological Laboratory, both located at the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. All illustrations are courtesy of the Tel Abel Beth Maacah Excavations.

Funding Information:
The Tel Abel Beth Maacah excavations are co-directed by three of the authors (Naama Yahalom-Mack and Nava Panitz-Cohen of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Robert Mullins of Azusa Pacific University of Los Angeles). The excavations and research are supported by an Israel Science Foundation grant (2017– 2020, grant no. 859/17) and by generous private donors. Licenses are granted by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Excavation of the astragali was conducted by Jeff Kobs. Conservation and cleaning of the amphora and astragali were done by Miriam Lavi, the Conservation Laboratory of the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Restoration of the vessel was done by Ora Mazar. Ancient DNA analysis of the astragali was conducted by Conor Rossi in Dan Bradley’s laboratory at the Smurfit Institute, Department of Genetics at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (the results were unfortunately inconclusive). Collagen prescreening and identification using FTIR was conducted by Matthew Susnow (under the guidance of Yotam Asscher, the Israel Antiquities Authority). This analysis as well as XRF and microscopy were performed at the Laboratory for Archaeological Materials and Ancient Technologies, while 3D scanning was performed at the Computational Archaeological Laboratory, both located at the Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. All illustrations are courtesy of the Tel Abel Beth Maacah Excavations.

Publisher Copyright:
© Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2021.

Keywords

  • Astragali
  • Hoards
  • Iron Age IIA
  • Levant
  • Tel Abel Beth Maacah
  • hoards
  • astragali

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology

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