Contextualizing an iron age iia hoard of astragali 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


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
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2021.


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Contextualizing an iron age iia hoard of astragali from tel abel beth maacah, israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this