Category Archives: ISRAEL

15,000 Years Ago, Humans in Israel Ate Snakes and Lizards

15,000 Years Ago, Humans in Israel Ate Snakes and Lizards

New research suggests ancient humans living in what is now Israel regularly dined on lizards and snakes, reports Luke Tress for the Times of Israel.

These people may have developed a taste for reptiles in order to find enough food as they transitioned to living in more permanent settlements ahead of the advent of agriculture.

Published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, the study examines 15,000-year-old fossilized lizard and snake bones found at the el-Wad Terrace cave near Mount Carmel in Israel. El-Wad is situated within the Nahal Me’arot Nature Preserve, which contains a network of caves that provides a window into 500,000 years of human evolution, according to Unesco.

Researchers with the University of Haifa dig up Natufian remains in the Mount Carmel area of northern Israel.

The research centers on excavations at a more recent site attributed to the Natufian culture, which was active in modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine between 15,000 and 11,500 years ago, per the University of Haifa’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology.

The Natufians are thought to be among the first humans to construct permanent houses and cultivate plants as food, reported Daniel K. Eisenbud for the Jerusalem Post in 2017.

To date, digs at the el-Wad cave have yielded flint and grinding tools, human burials, architectural remains, and animal bones. Though archaeologists can use markings on the bones of larger animals like rabbits or bears to discern if they were butchered for human consumption, smaller lizard and snake bones are more difficult to assess, according to the Times of Israel.

“From the beginning, our excavations in the site of el-Wad Terrace revealed lots of bones of snakes and lizards, usually the vertebras,” study co-author Reuven Yeshurun, an archaeologist at the Universit of Haifa, tells Rossella Tercatin of the Jerusalem Post. “We found them almost every day. We became really curious to understand if people ate them or if they had gotten there by some other process.”

Vertebrates of reptiles studied by University of Haifa archaeologists

To investigate the reptilian vertebrae’s origins, the team conducted a rather unorthodox set of experiments aimed at determining how different processes changed the bones’ structure and appearance.

“We roasted modern snakes’ vertebras in the oven; we tried to chop them and so forth,” Yeshurun tells the Jerusalem Post.

He and his colleagues also exposed the bones to acids that approximated digestion, trampled them, and exposed them to various weather conditions.

After comparing the modern bones with the ancient samples, the researchers posited that the Natufians did, in fact, dine on the many snakes and lizards found near their settlements. Per the paper, reptile species on the group’s menu included the European glass lizard and the large whipsnake.

The legless European glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus) was likely a part of the ancient human diet.

“They were still hunter-gatherers and did not know how to produce food, but they still lived in permanent small communities,” the team tells the Jerusalem Post.

“For this reason, they really needed to come up with numerous methods to procure food. One of the things they did was capturing and eating almost everything. Now we can add a new item to their menu.”

The reptile remains found at el-Wad may represent a combination of leftovers from ancient feasts and animal bones that accumulated naturally over time, reports the Jerusalem Post.

Though the team detected signs of human consumption on nonpoisonous species’ remains, they were unable to identify similar markings on poisonous species, suggesting these reptiles may have died of natural causes.

“We know from historical sources that people ate snakes in the Middle Ages, but until now there was no evidence that they did so 15,000 years ago,” Yeshurun tells the Times of Israel. “It’s very possible that with the help of the method we have developed we’ll find even earlier evidence.”

Village Where Jesus’ Disciples May Have Lived Flooded by Rising Sea of Galilee

Village Where Jesus’ Disciples May Have Lived Flooded by Rising Sea of Galilee

Rain, the life-giver, falling from the sky; so precious that God combines His Word with His bounty. Israelis prefer to be happy when it rains. “I’m not made of sugar, I’m not going to melt,” the local macho men explaining why they scorn umbrellas. Neither, happily, will the ruins at el-Araj, the putative hometown of Jesus’ disciples on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, which waxed fat on the heavy rains this winter, swelled and, it turns out, flooded the site.

El-Araj’s site, also known as Beit Habek, is located near the sea of Galilee, which is often referenced in the New Testament. It is believed that this was a Jewish village called Bethsaida.

In the First Temple era, it was known as Zer and it was a strategic city in the time of King David. It was originally a non-Hebrew city-state that later became part of Israel when it was renamed Bethsaida.

The identification of Bethsaida is important because it was the birthplace of three of Jesus’ Apostles – Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. In the New Testament, it is here that Jesus performed the miracle of the five loaves and fishes . It is interesting to note that Jesus also cursed the town of Bethsaida because its inhabitants refused to repent.

Prof. Moti Aviam and his colleagues from the local Kinneret College have been working at the site for several years and are very familiar with the area. For the last 10 years ‘el-Araj has been located a few hundred meters from the northernmost point of the lake, where the Jordan River spills into it,’ according to Haaretz.  While it is sometimes flooded, it is mostly dry by April and May.

However, this year is the first time in many years that the Sea of Galilee has risen, much to the relief of the Israelis who are very concerned about water scarcity because of climate change.

Prof. Aviam decided to visit el-Araj before he and some American collaborators returned to work on the site. He found that it is now badly flooded and lies under a shallow lagoon, so the planned excavations cannot go ahead. He is quoted in The Christian Post as saying that “I don’t remember a thing like this in the last 30 years.”

The site is currently under water.

The professor conducted a quick survey of the site and saw that some of the higher points at el-Araj are still standing above the waters with their ruins. However, the ruins of a Byzantine church are now under the water. According to Haaretz because of the flooding ‘Instead of archaeologists happily seeking new finds, it’s populated by catfish’.

The church at el-Araj dates to some 500 years after the birth of Jesus and was built during the Byzantine period when it became an important pilgrimage center.

The archaeologist is quoted by Haaretz as saying that “At the moment, the water is 80 centimeters [2 feet, 7 inches] above the mosaic of the Byzantine church.” This church still has many of its original features and even mosaic tiles. Thankfully, Aviam told The Christian Post that “We conserved the mosaic floor of the church and the water standing on it won’t harm it.”

The Byzantine church is currently under more than two feet of water.

Prof. Aviam and his American colleague Steven Notley believe that the ruin is the Church of the Apostles. Local tradition has it that it was built over the family home of the Apostles Peter and Andrew. The archaeologists believe this because of the church’s design and also its location on the Sea of Galilee. They believe that the existing ruins fit the description written about the church in the 8th century AD by a German bishop.

However, a team led by Prof. Rami Avar believes that the true site of Bethsaida is et-Tell, located further north and near the Golan Heights. They have uncovered a city gate that they claim indicates it was the location of the Old Testament city of Zer.

Dr. Avar and his colleagues unearthed coins of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony and fishing equipment such as weights from the Roman Empire. These they believe lend credence to their claim that the et-Tell site is Bethsaida, the birthplace of three Apostles and where Jesus performed a miracle.

Aerial view of the Church of the Apostles, which is said to have been built over the house of Jesus’ disciples Peter and Andrew.

In comparison, Prof. Aviam believes that one good thing came out of the flooding. He is quoted by Haaretz as stating that “In my opinion, the flooding now strengthens our theory that el-Araj was the site of Bethsaida.” The inundation of the historic site shows that it was near the lake, especially during the Roman period, when the disciples were born.

Bethsaida was a fishing village and one would expect to find it flooded occasionally. This is not the case with the location at et-Tell, which is on a rocky height and away from the waters of the Sea of Galilee .

However, Prof. Arav, who maintains that et-Tell was Bethsaida, argues that the evidence from the period shows that in the Roman era the Biblical village was far away from the lake. This was in line with what geologists have uncovered and show it could not have been flooded. Arav argues that the fact that el-Araj is now under a lagoon shows that it is not the city where Jesus performed one of his most famous miracles.

While the controversy will no doubt continue, Prof. Aviam hopes to resume work as soon as possible. However, he expects the excavation to be deferred until 2021.

Visiting el-Araj for the first time following the rains, after being shut up at home for weeks because of the coronavirus, archaeologist Prof. Moti Aviam had quite the shock.

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain genetic clues to their origins

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain genetic clues to their origins

Fragment of Scroll 4Q72a found in Qumran Cave 4 in the West Bank.

The Dead Sea Scrolls’ genetic analysis of leather helped to place various fragments in new historical contexts. The Dead Sea scrolls consist of a collection of approximately 1,000 ancient manuscripts, including the earliest edition of the Hebrew Bible in the cave of the Judean Desert.

However, because the manuscripts were uncovered in fragments, it was impossible to piece them together to interpret the texts properly. The question is exacerbated by the fact that many scrolls were not obtained directly from scholars from the Qumran caves, but from antiquities dealers. 

“Oded Rechavi of Tel Aviv University, one of the study’s corresponding authors, said: ‘ The discovery of the 2000 years old Dead Sea scrolls was one of the primary archeological findings ever made. ‘

However, he added, “most of them were not found intact but rather disintegrated into thousands of fragments, which had to be sorted and pieced together. … Depending on the classification of each fragment, the interpretation of any given text could change dramatically.” 

To sort out how different fragments of text are related to one another as well as to place them into the larger historical context, Rechavi and his colleagues analyzed ancient animal DNA isolated from the scrolls. As they reported in Cell on Tuesday, this allowed them to refine the relationships between different scroll fragments.

They obtained DNA samples from 26 Dead Sea Scroll fragments in consultation with conservators from the Israel Antiquities Authority and DNA samples from a dozen other objects like waterskins that were found alongside the scrolls.

They extracted the ancient DNA for deep sequencing and conducted Blast, phylogenetic, and other analyses to uncover the source of the materials used for the scrolls.

Through their analysis of this ancient DNA, the researchers found that all the Dead Sea Scrolls, save two, were made from sheep skin. The remaining two scrolls, both containing fragments of text from the biblical Book of Jeremiah, were made from cow skin.

The relationship between the various fragments of text from Jeremiah has been unclear. For instance, three fragments, dubbed 4Q71, 4Q72a, and 4Q72b, were originally thought to be from the same scroll, but an analysis of the text suggested otherwise and they have been published as distinct manuscripts.

Through their ancient DNA and additional mitochondrial DNA analysis, the researchers found that 4Q72b was made of cow skin, while 4Q71 and 4Q72a were made of sheep skin, providing further evidence that 4Q72b is not related to 4Q71 or 4Q72a.

The sheep used to make 4Q71 and 4Q72a, meanwhile, exhibited only low relatedness.

Additionally, as cows couldn’t be raised in the Judean desert and as there was no evidence of cow skin processing in Qumran, the researchers surmised that text written on those scrolls had to originate elsewhere. This indicates that different versions of the same book circulated at the same time, they noted.

“This teaches us about the way this prophetic text was read at the time and also holds clues to the process of the text’s evolution,” Rechavi added. 

The Dead Sea Scrolls also include non-biblical texts, such as multiple copies of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, a literary, liturgical work.

DNA gleaned from Dead Sea Scroll pieces, many of which were found in caves such as this one near a site called Qumran has yielded clues to the geographic spread of ideas and beliefs in those ancient manuscripts.

Different copies of the text found in various Qumran caves were made using skin from related sheep, the researchers found, while a version found in Masada came from a genetically distinct sheep, suggesting the text may also have been in wide circulation.

The researchers noted that their analysis was only of a portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And while the genetic data they amassed can inform how scholars interpret the texts, they wrote, it can only “reveal part of the picture and not solve all of the mysteries.”

What Ear Infections Going Back 15,000 Years Tell Us About Human Health

What Ear Infections Going Back 15,000 Years Tell Us About Human Health

Tel Aviv University researchers have found evidence of ear infections of the remains of people living in the Levant around 15,000 years ago in the skull.

The lead author Dr. Hila May of the Anatomy and Anthropology Department, TAU Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory Studies at the Medicine Faculty, Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, says: “We seek to determine the impact of our environment on illness throughout different periods.”

“We were able to detect signs of prolonged inflammation in our middle ear using advanced technologies and special methods developed in our laboratory.”

The researchers found a decline in morbidity as a result of ear infections following the transition from hunting and gathering to farming on account of changes in living conditions. A peak in morbidity, however, was observed in a sedentary population living about 6,000 years ago (Chalcolithic period).

Dr. May says the reason for this is twofold: social and environmental: “We know from archaeological excavations of this period, similar to preceding periods, people lived in a communal area where all activities, from cooking to raising livestock, took place.

As a result, the population density in the ‘home’ was high, hygiene was poor and they suffered from indoor air pollution. Two other factors are known about this period – dietary change, the advent of dairy consumption, and climate change, a dip in temperature and a rise in rainfall, also contributed to the prevalence of ear infections.”

A story in the skulls

Until the advent of antibiotics in the 20th century, ear infections developed into chronic conditions, or, due to complications, caused permanent loss of hearing or even death.

“Ear infections are still a very common childhood ailment, with over 50 percent of young children today still suffering from an ear infection at one point or another,” explains Dr. May.

“The reason for this is that the tubes that channel fluid from the middle ear to the mouth are underdeveloped in young children, so fluids that accumulate in the ear ultimately cause inflammation.”

“A prolonged ear infection would cause permanent damage to the bony wall of the middle ear, which is remarkably preserved into adulthood, so when we sought to investigate changes in communal health over time in our region, we chose to focus on ear infections, developing a special method for doing so,” she adds.

The scientists used a video scope, a tiny camera mounted at the end of a flexible tube, which they inserted through the ear canal to the middle ear to observe its bony walls.

In addition, they scanned skull remains with a high-resolution micro-CT, and also examined the middle ear’s bony wall using a light microscope.

More room, fewer infections

As living conditions improved, morbidity as a result of ear infections dropped, according to the study.

“Houses were larger and featured several rooms, including separate areas for specific activities, i.e. the kitchen was set up in a separate room or outside, and livestock were kept in a separate area,” she says. “The change in lifestyle and climate is reflected in a decline in morbidity.”

“Our study deals with the impact of the environment and social behavior on morbidity rates, and to do so, we examined a common disease that has accompanied humanity since inception – the ear infection,” concludes Dr. May.

“Understanding how diseases appear, spread, and disappear throughout human history can help prevent and find solutions to contemporary illnesses.

The study clearly points out risk factors and shows how lifestyle changes can affect the incidence of the disease. In both ear infections and COVID-19, social distancing and adherence to hygiene reduced the spread of infection, while close quarters and unhygienic living conditions saw infections spike.”

Researchers Find 1,400-Year-Old Rooms Under Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Researchers Find 1,400-Year-Old Rooms Under Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Previously, archeologists discovered three ancient subterranean chambers located in the bedrock under the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem. 

The excavation was part of a larger project to create an underground expanse showcasing various eras.

Two thousand years ago, the chambers were consisting of an open courtyard and two rooms, were carved on top of one another and connected by hewn staircases.

According to a statement from the Israel Ancientities Authority, inside the chambers, archaeologists discovered clay-cooking pots, cores of oil lamps, a stone mug, and a qalal or a large stone basin that was used to hold water for rituals.

The archeologists also found a long carving at the entrance to the chambers for shelves and depressions for door hinges and bolts, as well as round, square and triangular niches carved into the walls, some of which could have been used to place oil-lamps in.

These findings likely mean that these chambers were used daily, according to the statement. But it’s not clear what they were actually used for.

“Perhaps, it served as a pantry for an overhead structure that didn’t survive, or as a hewn space” for living underground, Mordechai Eliav, the director of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, said in the statement.

Oil candles were among the items discovered in the underground chambers.

“We’re asking ourselves what was the function of this very complex rock-cut system?” co-director of the excavation Barak Monnickendam-Givon said in an accompanying video.

People could have lived in these underground chambers or stored food or groceries there for possibly another long-gone building above it.

“Another possibility is that this system was used for hiding during the siege on Jerusalem 2000 years ago when the Roman legions conquered the city,” he said.

The subterranean chambers were hidden beneath the white mosaic floor of a public building that was created around 1,400 years ago during the Byzantine period.

The building was renovated about 1,250 years ago, during the Abbasid period, according to the statement. In the 11th century, the building was destroyed and the subterranean chambers, along with other finds, were buried and stayed hidden for centuries.

These chambers were found in the “Beit Strauss” complex, beneath the entrance lobby to the Western Wall Tunnels, which helped the builders of the wall support its massive weight. (The tunnels also contained channels that supplied water to the Second Temple, according to Atlas Obscura).

Archeologists discovered this measuring cup in the chambers.

The complex was likely used by residents of the city during the early Roman period, before Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, according to a statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The Western Wall is the only remaining part of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which the Romans destroyed along with the rest of the city, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Text Found on Supposedly Blank Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Text Found on Supposedly Blank Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Four fragments of the manuscript Dead Sea Scroll, located in the John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester, which were previously thought to be blank, do in fact contain text.

The Hebrew word “Shabbat” is visible in the upper right-hand corner. A lamed (the letter “L” in Hebrew) is written on the left side of the fragment.

The finding reveals that Manchester University is the only UK institution with authenticated textual fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The research was carried out as part of a Leverhulme-funded study conducted at King’s College London and was conducted jointly by Professor Joan Taylor (King’s College London), Professor Marcello Fidanzio (Lugano Theology Faculty) and Dr. Dennis Mizzi (Malta University).

Joan Taylor examining the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments in the John Rylands Library Reading Room (DQCAAS)

Unlike the recent cases of forgeries assumed to be Dead Sea Scrolls fragments, all of these small pieces were unearthed in the official excavations of the Qumran caves and were never passed through the antiquities market.

In the 1950s, the fragments were gifted by the Jordanian government to Ronald Reed, a leather expert at the University of Leeds, so he could study their physical and chemical composition.

It was assumed that the pieces were ideal for scientific tests, as they were blank and relatively worthless. These were studied and published by Reed and his student John Poole, and then stored safely away.

In 1997 the Reed Collection was donated to The University of Manchester through the initiative of Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, George Brooke. These fragments have been stored in Reed’s own labeled boxes in The John Rylands Library, and have been relatively untouched since then.

When examining the fragments for the new study, Professor Taylor thought it possible that one of them did actually contain a letter, and therefore decided to photograph all of the existing fragments over 1 cm that appears blank to the naked eye, using multispectral imaging.

51 fragments were imaged front and back. Six were identified for further detailed investigation—of these, it was established that four have readable Hebrew/Aramaic text written in carbon-based ink. The study has also revealed ruled lines and small vestiges of letters on other fragments.

The most substantial fragment has the remains of four lines of text with 15-16 letters, most of which are only partially preserved, but the word Shabbat (Sabbath) can be clearly read. This text (pictured) may be related to the biblical book of Ezekiel (46:1-3). One-piece with text is the edge of a parchment scroll section, with sewn thread, and the first letters of two lines of text may be seen to the left of this binding.

“Looking at one of the fragments with a magnifying glass, I thought I saw a small, faded letter—a lamed, the Hebrew letter “L,'” said Professor Taylor. “Frankly, since all these fragments were supposed to be blank and had even been cut into for leather studies, I also thought I might be imagining things. But then it seemed maybe other fragments could have very faded letters too.”

“With new techniques for revealing ancient texts now available, I felt we had to know if these letters could be exposed. There are only a few on each fragment, but they are like missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle you find under a sofa.”

The research team is currently undertaking further investigations of these fragments in consultation with The John Rylands Library and Professor Brooke, as part of a larger project studying the various Qumran artifacts at the John Rylands Library. The results will be published in a forthcoming report.

“I am hugely grateful to Professor Joan Taylor and her colleagues, and to the brilliant work of our imaging specialists, for bringing this astonishing discovery to light.

Our University is now the only institution in the United Kingdom to hold authenticated textual fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Close-up of Dead Sea Scrolls fragment (DQCAAS)

It is particularly fitting that these fragments are held here at The John Rylands Library, one of the world’s greatest repositories of Judaeo-Christian texts,” says Professor Christopher Pressler, John Rylands University Librarian and Director of the University of Manchester Library.

The cache of Ancient coins and Jewelry From the time of Alexander the Great discovered

The cache of Ancient coins and Jewelry From the time of Alexander the Great discovered

he explorers of the grotto in Israel discovered a small cache of coins and jewellery from the time of Alexander the Great that archaeologists believe was hidden by refugees during an ancient war.

coins jewellery from alexander the great era found in Israel
The 2,300-year-old cache of jewelry and two Alexander the Great coins.

Eitan Klein of the Israeli Antiquities Authority said that the 2300-year-old cache was the first of its kind to be discovered from the period of the conqueror.

The Israel Antiquities Authority said that, in Israel, ancient coins and jewelry from the time of Alexander the Great were found in a cave.  In addition, several pieces of silver and bronze jewellery were found, including decorated earrings, bracelets, and rings, which were apparently concealed in the cave, inside a cloth pouch.

Silver coin of Alexander the Great, here depicted in the guise of the Greek hero Herakles wearing a lion-skin cloak, discovered in a cave in northern Israel.

“The valuables might have been hidden in the cave by local residents who fled there during the period of governmental unrest stemming from the death of Alexander, a time when the Wars of the Diadochi broke out in Israel between Alexander’s heirs,” Xinhua quoted the Israel Antiquities Authority as saying in a statement.

“Presumably the cache was hidden in the hope of better days, but today we know that whoever buried the treasure never returned to collect it,” the authority said.

Archaeologists with the authority believe this is one of the important discoveries to come to light in the north of the country in recent years.

The cache was discovered by chance, as three members of the Israeli Caving Club were touring the area, known as one of the largest and well-hidden stalactite caves in northern Israel.

They wandered and crawled between various parts of a stalactite cave for several hours, as a shinning object caught their eyes.

They reported the find to the Israel Antiquities Authority, which sent researchers that have examined the cave over the past two weeks.

The discovery comes a month after a hoard of at least 2,000 ancient gold coins was accidentally discovered by divers off the coast of Caesarea, north of Tel Aviv, in the largest gold trove ever discovered in Israel.

Fingerprints on Early Bronze Age Pottery Studied in Israel

Fingerprints on Early Bronze Age Pottery Studied in Israel

According to the text, some 4700 years ago, people were responsible in great part for pottery making in Tell es-Safi in central Israel, which was known as the biblical town of Gath, Ramat Gan, ISRAEL — Kent D. Fowler and the colleague from Bar-Ilan University and Don Maeir said.

Fingerprints on Early Bronze Age Pottery Studied in Israel
Fingerprints of the index and middle fingers, right hand, made 4,700 years ago on the bottom of a storage vessel in Gath

Crafted of wet clay into “snakes” and enrouled and smoothed to the desired shape, the pots would have been covered with fingerprints, unless they had been wiped away by the potter with a rag before the pot was baked in a kiln.

Forensic scientist Lior Nedivi said that women usually have smaller fingertips than men, with denser fingerprint ridges.

The site of Tell es-Safi – aka Gath – was settled from about 7,000 years ago, during the Late Prehistoric period, on the western edge of the Judean foothills, with a strategically convenient view of Israel’s southern coastal plain.

By the Early Bronze Age, when this pottery was made, the village had become one of several fortified urban centers in the region and was probably Canaanite.

And, as seems to be the rule in human society, there was a division of labor – as attested by the marks the potters left on some vessels.

“These are the fingerprints of 4,700-year-old people! Right there to see. To connect with. It is very intimate. It does freak me out a bit, but I get over it and I just think it would have been nice to meet them,” Prof. Fowler says. 

Gath Archaeological Project, Tel es-Safi

The division of labor is a fundamental organizing principle in human societies, Fowler explains, but potting as a genderized occupation in antiquity can’t be taken for granted. Actual archaeological evidence is of the essence.

In the Levant, the Pottery Neolithic Period began about 8,500 years ago.

Over in Mesopotamia, it seems more females than males were involved in the earliest pottery manufacture, but that changed with the establishment of state institutions. “In most cases in antiquity, once things become centralized, women are marginalized,” Maeir says.

Yet in the Neolithic settlement of Boncuklu Hoyuk in Anatolia, and in somewhat less ancient Arizona, figurines seem to have been made chiefly by women.

“If the researchers’ analysis is correct, which is potentially problematic, then figurine production would have aligned with the other responsibilities in that society,” Fowler tells Ancientorigin.

“Perhaps women were responsible for the conduct of private and domestic ritual practices, much like women in Maya society, whereas men were responsible for the conduct of ritual practices in the public sphere.”

Gath is chiefly known as a Philistine city famed as the home of the legendary Goliath, anecdotally slain by a pre-monarchic David, but that would have been in about the 11th century B.C.E. – a millennium later than the pottery reported here when it seems the men were potting. But how actually did the archaeologists deduce the gender of the fingerprints?

Jar fragment with multiple prints: Arrow shows the direction of marks left by the fabric used to wipe the inside of the pot, Gath