Pigs in a pit: An unusual find of ritual suid exploitation in an Early Islamic context at the site of Tel Yavne, Israel

Lee Perry-Gal, Inbar Ktalav, Liat Nadav-Ziv, Elie Haddad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A shallow, human dug pit dated to the Early Islamic period (Area C3, 9th-10th century CE) and containing solely pig remains (Sus scrofa/S. s. domesticus) was discovered in an ongoing large scale excavation in Tel Yavne, Israel. Evidence of the intentional disposal or interment of the pig remains in the pit raises questions regarding the reasons for this peculiar occurrence at a time that the southern Levant was subject to the rule of Islamic law and dietary prohibitions. While it is known that non-Muslim communities continued to flourish in the region during the Early Islamic period (Fischer and Taxel 2007, and see the historical references therein), direct evidence of pig exploitation at this time has not been extensively documented. Our results indicate that at least seven suids, most of them domesticated and a few of feral/wild individuals, were slaughtered and rapidly deposited together inside the pit, in a one-time event. A comparison of the remains from the pit with other suid remains from the site, dated to the late Byzantine-Early Islamic period (7th-10th century CE), shows the pit to be a strikingly dense concentration of pig remains and reveals a unique techonomic pattern of the dominance of maxilla over mandibles. Pig husbandry at the site was generally based on culling of young animals (piglets), a pattern typical of dense urban sites, while many of the animals in the pit displayed abnormal molar tooth wear, suggesting consumption of abrasive food and teeth defects indicating stressful captivity conditions. We refer to archaeological and historical data in an attempt to reconstruct a scenario explaining the suid pit.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103462
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We deeply thank L. Weissbrod for his highly valuable scientific and editorial contribution. We thank Y. Gumenny for her assistance with the graphic design. The excavation at Tel Yavne was conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority and funded by the Israel Land Authority. We would like to thank E. Zvivel (area supervision), T. Harpak, Ziv Lotan, Y. Amrani and E. Ben Porat (administration), S. Emanuelov and I. Jonish (photogrammetry), A. Peretz (field and aerial photography), Y. Gumenny and E. Ben Porat (processing of plans and photogrammetry), O. Tzuf (pottery reading), and Y. Gorin-Rosen and A. Naggar (glass analysis). Thanks are also due to the IAA Central District administration, students from pre-military preparatory programs and workers from Ashkelon, Jenin and the southern Hebron Hills.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • Islamic period
  • Pig
  • Southern Levant
  • Sus scorfa
  • Yavne
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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