BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

The Prehistoric Diet and the Rise of Complex Societies

Culinary practices at prehistoric Tel Tsaf

tel-tsaf-map

The prehistoric village at Tel Tsaf is located near the Jordan River and the international border between Israel and Jordan, 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Image: Courtesy of the Tel Tsaf Research Project.

Few historical eras or periods of human history saw changes as profound as the Neolithic (c. 8300–4500 B.C.E.). No wonder the complex transformations that had taken place during that time are often referred to as “the Neolithic revolution.” Some of the most influential and lasting changes include the domestication of cattle, the introduction of agriculture, and the development of more socially complex organizations that ultimately led to the emergence of first towns and cities.

It is generally accepted that these innovations or transitions had first taken place in the Near East. Among the prime laboratories in which to study these changes is Tel Tsaf, a prehistoric village about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Dating to c. 5300–4700 B.C.E., this village has been archaeologically explored since the late 1970s.

The current archaeological project at Tel Tsaf, directed by Danny Rosenberg and Florian Klimscha, was launched in 2013 with that particular goal of shedding new light on the transition from simple village communities to complex societies and learning about their prehistoric diet. Reporting in their Archaeological Views column “Prehistoric Dining at Tel Tsaf” in the July/August 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, the directors explain that “the transition from the Neolithic to the Chalcolithic period appears to coincide with the development of the Mediterranean-style diet. In that respect, our project strives to better understand food choices by considering environmental conditions, social and economic factors, and cultural preferences of the local population.”


The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.

Archaeologists obtain relevant data by collecting and analyzing even the least impressive archaeological evidence, including pollen, seeds, animal bones, microfauna, and other organic material. Extracting information on prehistoric diet from such fragile and minuscule finds requires application of an array of scientific methods, which include state-of-the-art bio-archaeological and material culture analyses.

tel-tsaf-sifting

Field archaeology is not always pretty. Archaeologists at Tel Tsaf need to carefully sift buckets of excavated dirt in search of small artifacts and organic material that can shed light on the prehistoric diet. Photo: Courtesy of the Tel Tsaf Research Project.

To learn more about the critical transformations in human (pre-)history, the prehistoric diet, and the role of food in the transition to complex societies, read “Prehistoric Dining at Tel Tsaf” by Danny Rosenberg and Florian Klimscha in the July/August 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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Subscribers: Read the full article “Prehistoric Dining at Tel Tsaf” by Danny Rosenberg and Florian Klimscha in the July/August 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.

Related content in Bible History Daily:

Oldest Metal Object from the Southern Levant Discovered
7,000-year-old copper awl found in Tel Tsaf excavations

Why Study Prehistoric Israel?

The Ancient Bean Diet: Fava Beans Favored in Prehistoric Israel

Going Paleo: Prehistoric site in Israel offers menu for a Paleolithic diet


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