written by Adam Zertal

Bones provide the solution

Examining the bones in the laboratories of the Hebrew University's Department of Zoology took several months. These were tense months for us, the excavators. When Liora Kolska-Horwitz, who did the bone analysis, brought us the results, they were very surprising. Except for the bones of a wild rabbit and a hedgehog (that happened to die on this site at a later date), 942 bones were examined, representing 50-100 specimens. These were attributed to four kinds of animals: goats, sheep, cattle, and fallow deer. The latter is a light-spotted animal which inhabited the woodlands of our country in antiquity. Examination of the sex and age of the animals revealed that all those that could be diagnosed were young males, approximately one year old. This correlates remarkably with the laws of sacrifice in the book of Leviticus: And the Lord called unto Moses, and spoke unto him out of the tent of meeting, saying: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When any man of you bringeth an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd or of the flock. If his offering be a burnt-offering of the herd, he shall offer it a male without blemish" (Leviticus 1:1-3). A great part of the bones, as we mentioned, had been burned over a fire and were cut near the joints. Being scorched in this way attests that the flesh was not intended for eating but was burned over an open fire (i.e. not in an oven). Thus the high correlation with the biblical laws of sacrifice, together with the great architectural resemblance to Israelite altars, confirmed the view that we were dealing with a cultic site and altar from the beginning of the Israelite settlement.

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