May 26, 2010

Lathyrus consumption in Late Bronze and Iron Age Israel

Journal of Archaeological Science doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.05.008

Lathyrus Consumption in Late Bronze and Iron Age Sites in Israel: An Aegean Affinity

Yael Mahler-Slasky et al.


This paper presents new evidence, together with previous findings, for the appearance of charred seeds of Lathyrus sativus (grass pea)/L. cicera. This grain legume was a food staple in ancient times, principally in the Aegean region, but also appeared sporadically and in a limited way in the archaeological record of the southern Levant. It is encountered there first in the Late Bronze Age but disappears in the record at the end of the Iron Age. Although a palatable, nutritious plant adapted for growing under adverse conditions, its seeds can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. Apparently L. sativus/cicera made its way to the lowlands of the southern Levant, either by trade or with Philistine immigrants. It is absent at other south Levantine Bronze Age (i.e., Canaanite) and Iron Age sites and it remained a food component in the southern coastal region (i.e., Philistia, the region associated with the biblical Philistines) up to the end of Iron Age II, suggesting a possible ethnic association. Evidence of L. sativus/cicera joins that of another Aegean archaeobotanical import from an earlier, Middle Bronze Age II context, L. clymenum, found at Tel Nami, a coastal site farther to the north of the region.



andrew said...

The find is probably as relevant for providing an example of an abandoned food crop as it is for showing cultural linkage.

The fact that many food crops not used today were once widely used, but abandoned for presumably better crops (as a result of domestication related improvements), is not widely known. But, this undermines the biological determinist view point that the crops we use now are the only crops that could have ended up being staples, and that agriculture did not develop elsewhere because adequate wild species to domesticate were not available.

Marnie said...

Enlightening. Thanks for this set of articles.

Anonymous said...

We see here evidence of the migration of the Pelasgians from the Aegean World to the Levant Coast.

Do not think that the above is an isolated find. On the contrary:

`Remains Of Minoan-Style Painting Discovered During Excavations Of Canaanite Palace`

The Pelasgians were the original inhabitants of the Greek peninsula prior to the arrival of the Hellenic-speaking tribes.

Some link them to the Peleset/Philistines whilst others to the `Sea Peoples`. It is assumed that they chose to migrate under pressure from the `Ahiyawa` of the Hittite texts, aka the Achaeans of the Mycenae Culture.

Interestingly enough, Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus is mentioned in the Hittite texts as `Atarasiya`.

The sole remnant of the Pelasgians in modern Greece, are place names and words that feature the dipthong -nth, a non Indo-European dipthong.

e.g.: Cori-nth-us, Eryma-nth-us, Pli-nth-us (a word for `stone` esp building stone) and so on.

Dienekes said...

The sole remnant of the Pelasgians in modern Greece, are place names and words that feature the dipthong -nth, a non Indo-European dipthong.

First, -nth- is not a diphthong.
Second, it has clear parallels to Luwian, and Indo-European language.

Tunguska said...

Could these have been the pods with which the Prodigal Son "longed to fill his belly" while feeding the swine, in Christ's parable?