The archaeology of purity and impurity: A case-study from tel 'Eton, Israel

Avraham Faust, Hayah Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distinction between clean and unclean, often associated with bodily functions, is a common feature of human societies. Consequently, diverse groups developed different ways of maintaining separation between the realms. Despite its prominence in many ethnographies and in anthropology at large, and although the spatial expression of this separation is susceptible to archaeological enquiry, the concept of purity had received less attention by archaeologists. The completion of the excavation of a large house at Tel 'Eton supplied us with detailed information on household life and practices in Iron Age Israel. The finds from this house, along with a very large archaeological dataset about Iron Age Israelite society at large and the wealth of textual data from this period, give us insights into the practices associated with purity/impurity. The article reconstructs how Iron Age Israelite society coped with the implications of impurity (mainly women during menstruation) in its daily life, how impurity was contained, and offers a reconstruction of the ritual that accompanied the change of status from impure to pure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalCambridge Archaeological Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2016.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Archaeology


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