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Iron Age Pigs: New Evidence on Their Origin and Role in Forming Identity Boundaries

  • Lidar Sapir-Hen (a1), Meirav Meiri (a2) and Israel Finkelstein (a3)


This article reviews recent studies of pigs in the Iron Age in the southern Levant. The studies were carried out as part of the European Research Council-funded Ancient Israel project, with the aim of examining questions of identity and ethnic boundaries, with special emphasis on Philistia and ancient Israel. On the Philistine side, the results show a dichotomy in pork consumption between urban centers and the rural sector, and suggest that European domestic pigs were brought to the Levant by the Sea Peoples, most probably to secure the supply of meat. Reviewed with previous evidence, we suggest that economic motivation was the driving force for pork consumption and abandonment. Regarding ancient Israel, new studies show that avoiding pork was a widespread phenomenon of much of the Iron Age in both the highland and the lowlands outside of Philistia. They also point to a rise in pork consumption in lowlands sites of the Northern Kingdom in the Iron IIB and suggest a link between this phenomenon and the early consolidation of the taboo on pigs in Judah in late-monarchic times.


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