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Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo

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The paper discusses the food-related stone tools found in Building 00/K/10 at Iron Age I Megiddo. Given the tools' spatial distribution in the building, specifically their clustering, the author suggests that the processing and serving of food had social implications directly related to the spatial division between nuclear family units that shared the building during this period.
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SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD PROCESSING
ACTIVITIES AT LATE IRON I MEGIDDO
Danny Rosenberg
University of Haifa
Abstract
The paper discusses the food-related stone tools found in Building 00/K/10 at Iron
Age I Megiddo. Given the tools spatial distribution in the building, specically their
clustering, the author suggests that the processing and serving of food had social
implications directly related to the spatial division between nuclear family units that
shared the building during this period.
The spatial distribution of groundstone (hereafter=stone) tools used as food processing
implements enables archaeologists to make inferences about the activities carried
out at a given location.
In this regard, stone food processing tools, ethnographically associated with
women’s activities in societies where agriculture played an important role in the
subsistence economy (Brumfiel 1991; Goheen 1996; Hastorf 1991; Hendon 1997;
Jackson 1991; Jones 1996; Nelson et al. 2002), are widely accepted by archaeologists
as a means through which both daily life and, more particularly, food-processing
activities, can be understood.
These food-associated tools—dominated by grinding stones (both upper and
lower elements), pounding implements (pestles, pounder-crushers and bowls/
mortars), as well as various vessels and containers—transformed crops into palatable
and nutritious substances. In addition, they played an important role in bridging
the gap between the insecurity associated with anticipated annual harvests and the
stability associated with stored foodstuffs.
Producing these tools was costly. First, the raw material from which they were
made had to be quarried, and then they had to be manufactured and transported
to a given site (to date, not much evidence for production of stone tools in south
Levantine Iron Age settlements is available). Thus, the tools had an innate value of
their own. But their potential as implements capable of transforming raw food stuffs
into storable and/or consumable items gave them special socio-economic importance.
And it is this that makes it possible for archaeologists to build on the frequently
arbitrary presentation of stone tools, and to analyze their spatial distribution in terms
of socio-economic indicators.
Building 00/K/10 in Level K-4 (University of Chicago’s Stratum VIA) at Tel
Megiddo is a domestic Late Iron Age I structure that came to a sudden end in a fierce
conflagration (Gadot et al. 2006; for the pottery see Arie 2006; for metallurgical
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
activity see Yahalom and Shalev 2006; for an analysis of the spatial distribution of
finds see Gadot and Yasur-Landau 2006). Its walls and roof collapsed, sealing off
everything within it. The building was thus an excellent laboratory for examining
the spatial distribution of food processing tools and for making inferences on the
whereabouts of food preparation within the structure. This, plus the meticulous
retrieval methods (including sieving of all sediments) executed during excavation,
enabled us to focus on different aspects of food preparation (see Borowski 2004:
97), and also made it possible to examine the relationships between woman-related
activities and domestic architecture.
While exposing Building 00/K/10 (Fig. 1), four facts became evident: (1) the
building ceased to exist due to a violent collapse of the walls and roof (Gadot and
Yasur-Landau 2006); (2) as a consequence, the contexts below the roof were sealed;
(3) stone tools, specifically those considered food processing tools, found where
they had been used or stored, were among the most prominent finds beneath the
debris; (4) in many cases it seems that the food processing tools were deliberately
clustered in defined spaces, suggesting a connection between specific tools and
contexts.
OBJECTIVES
The study of the stone assemblage of Building 00/K/10 was conducted with several
goals in mind: (1) to review the spatial distribution of food-processing-related
activities; (2) to distinguish between private spaces and open-communal court in
relation to the spatial position of women’s activity areas; (3) to define clusters of
food processing tools as indicators of the formal ‘tool kit’ of food processors; and
(4) to test raw material selection for food processing and serving tools; (5) to test the
distribution of task-specific tools as a means of analyzing social division of labour
and spatial organization of food processing.
METHOD
This paper concentrates on stone food processing tools found inside Building 00/K/10.
Items found near but not within the building were excluded from the analysis.
It should be borne in mind that archaeological implements, especially small
tool fragments, are frequently found outside their original-use contexts. While the
possibility of post-deposition processes infecting the whereabouts of the artefacts
within the perimeters of Building 00/K/10 was taken into account (small tool
fragments and unidentified tool fragments were excluded from the study) a detailed
enumeration of such activity, including micro-morphology, is beyond the scope of
this paper. Nonetheless, the fact that some of the artefacts found inside Building
00/K/10 were broken or damaged could indicate that at least some of the stone
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TEL AVIV 35 (2008)
implements were broken before the destruction , i.e., they were never used as whole
items (although the possibility of damage to some finds during the devastation
should be taken into account as well). While it is nearly impossible to test such an
assumption, most of the stone tools, including fragments, are relatively large and
thus less likely to have moved between strata. If this is true, one should consider
the possibility that both whole tools and fragments were present on the floors of
Building 00/K/10 and its internal court at the time when its roof collapsed. The fact
that none of the pairs of food grinding tools was found in situ (i.e., one atop the
other) could be the consequence of the collapse or the outcome of a behavioural
pattern that did not lay tools together where they were used but rather stored them
one next to the other.
For the present study, the typological definitions used by Sass (2000) and Sass
and Cinamon (2006) were adopted, though certain taxonomic modifications were
employed in order to keep as many tool types as possible in the general food-
processing-tools group. Thus, a generalized approach was chosen that defines grinding
and pounding implements as well as vessels as one functional food-processing-tools
group. While this generalization could not be supported by evidence retrieved from
Fig. 1. Building 00/K/10, looking east.
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
Fig. 2. Building 00/K/10.
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TEL AVIV 35 (2008)
both use-wear and residue analyses, it is assumed that the main functions of most
of the tools included here were associated with tasks related to food processing,
handling or serving.
Reliable evidence for any given item being an actual food processing tool is
difficult to obtain (but see for instance Yohe et al. 1991; Hard et al. 1996; Fullagar et
al. 1999; Piperno et al. 2004 for such studies), and if obtained suffers from a variety
of methodological problems concerning both retrieval techniques and preservation.
The current study therefore considers the common typo-functional definitions
of food processing tools as the basis for the attribution of the tools studied here.
These definitions and the correlation between the tools and the management of food
resources are backed by numerous ethnographic and archaeological studies (e.g.,
Bartlett 1933; Curwen 1937; Carter 1977; Curtis 1977; Muchawski-Schapper 1985;
Inomata and Stiver 1988; Ertug-Yaras 1997; David 1998; Adams 2002; Ebeling and
Rowan 2004).
SUBDIVISION OF SPACE WITHIN THE BUILDING
Building 00/K/10 (Figs. 12) is characterized by a central courtyard (00/K/10)
flanked by nine (or ten) rooms. The rooms can be separated into three relatively
large spaces (Rooms 98/K/77 and 00/K/45 and Space 00/K/87 [which may be two
smaller rooms—00/K/87 and 00/K/70]) and six smaller units (98/K/66, 98/K/46,
00/K/51, 00/K/30, 00/K/05 and 00/K/22). Similar structures are found at other 2nd
millennium BCE strata at Megiddo. They are also found at other Iron Age sites (see
Gadot and Yasur-Landau 2006). The lower parts of the building were almost entirely
preserved. While the foundations of the walls were made of stone it is evident that
the upper parts and roof were made of mud bricks and various perishable materials,
e.g., timber or logs.
Judging from the reconstructed plan of the building, the court was accessed from
two rooms (Room 00/K/45, with possibly two entrances, and Room 00/K/87). Rooms
00/K/22, 98/K/77, 98/K/66, 98/K/46 and 00/K/51 are actually linked, separated only
by partition walls as are Rooms 00/K/30, 00/K/05 and Room 00/K/87.
THE STONE ASSEMBLAGE
The stone assemblage of Building 00/K/10 includes 148 items (Sass 2000; Sass
and Cinamon 2006). The assemblage contains an assortment of perforated articles
(weights, flywheels, etc.) and unidentified stone tools and fragments, as well as
many tools and implements related to the processing, storing or serving of food.
These were found in almost every room and space within the building and its internal
court (Fig. 3).
The food processing tool assemblage (n=74, Table 1; Figs. 46) includes lower
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
grinding tools such as querns and grinding slabs (n=7, 9.46% of the stone food
processing assemblage), upper grinding tools, including processors (manos) and
burnishers (n=27, 36.5%). Various abrading and polishing paraphernalia such as
rubbers, polishers, etc., were included here as part of a general definition of processing
implements (n=12, 16.22%). Also found were vessels, including bowls and mortars
(n=11, 14.86%), pestles (n=6, 8.1%) and hammerstones (n=11, 14.86%).
The above items were found whole or nearly whole. Since the ‘terminal event’
concerning the sealing of the house and its contents was the collapse of walls and roof,
in situ breakage of items is suggested and therefore it is possible to include broken
items in the analysis. Thus, these were regarded as items in operative condition and
their find spots were considered as original use/storing contexts.
Most of the tools are made from basalt, though limestone, sandstone and
unidentified stone were also noted. The dominance of basalt is not surprising, since it
has been one of the most preferred stones for the production of food processing tools
from prehistory through to modern times (Rosenberg 2004; Rowan 1998; Rutter
2003). Two kinds of basalts were utilized: one, the more prevalent, is compact and
fine-grained (or occasionally coarse-grained) and the other porous, characterized
by various sized vesicles, created during the cooling of the magma. It is of note that
while basalt quarry and production sites for stone tools are not common features in
the Levant, one rare instance of such a site (attributed to the late prehistoricearly
protohistoric periods) was found only a few kilometres northwest of Megiddo
(Shimelmitz et al. 2005; Rosenberg et al. forthcoming).
To date, no evidence of Iron Age stone tool/vessel production was found at
Megiddo. It is possible that stone for the basalt tools was quarried in the Manasseh
Hills (less likely) or in the eastern parts of Wadi Ara or the eastern Jezreel Valley,
where basalt is more prevalent. More distant basalt outcrops are known in the
Hula Valley and the Golan Heights (Rowan 1998; Rutter 2003 and references).
Limestone and dolomite are also evident in the tool assemblage, yet it seems
that procurement of these raw materials was more arbitrary, since many potential
sources were available in proximity to the site.
Grinding/abrading tools dominate the assemblage from Building 00/K/10
(n=46, 62.18%), while pounding implements are less frequent. In Table 1 all
containers and pounding tools were grouped together, though not all were clearly
intended for food processing. The dominance of grinding tools, specifically the
upper, mobile items, suggests that grinding was the major technique used to
process food (possibly floral resources such as grains or pulses).
Grinding tools were probably used to pulverize or crack grain into flour or
bran but could also be used for the processing of legumes, fruits, vegetables and
meat. All are well known in both prehistoric and ethnographic contexts.
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SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION
The spatial distribution of the stone food-processing items (Table 1; Fig. 3) in
Building 00/K/10 suggests that the tools were found adjacent to the rooms’ walls,
near doorways and passages, and in the internal court. Their distribution calls for the
following observations:
(1) Tools were found in most rooms, yet in four rooms as well as in the court,
they appear in relatively large quantities. Rooms that had no stone processing
tools (00/K/30 and to some extent Rooms 98/K/66 and 00/K/22) should
possibly be regarded as spaces in which no food processing related activity
took place, at least in the terminal stage of the building. It is noteworthy that
two of these rooms (00/K/30 and 00/K/22) are confined spaces with restricted
entrance (i.e., could be approached only from a neighbouring room).
Fig. 3. Building 00/K/10, distribution of stone tools.
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
(2) Most tools were found in the north and northeastern parts of the building,
including Court 00/K/10 (over 85% of the food processing tools).
(3) While some of the tools were found scattered on the floors of rooms and in
the court, a large number of tools was found in clusters of several tools (211
tools per cluster). Two such clusters were found in Room 98/K/77 (2 and 11
items), four in Room 98/K/46 (2, 2, 3 and 8 items), one in Room 00/K/51 (8
items), and two in Room 00/K/45 (3 and 10 items). Thus, each of the rooms
containing stone tool clusters (n=4) had one large cluster, that is, most of the
tools found in the building were part of a large cluster.
(4) The central court revealed four clusters of food processing tools (2, 2, 4 and
5 items). Thus, a similar phenomenon of tool grouping characterized rooms
with access to the central court, the court itself, as well as rooms with no
direct accessibility to the internal court.
(5) The clusters differ not only in the number of tools they contain, but also in
their composition and in the relative frequencies of grinding and pounding
tools. For instance, Room 98/K/77 contained most of the stone vessels/
mortars (n=5). The largest group of lower grinding stones (n=3) was found
TABLE 1. SPATIAL DISTRIBUTION OF FOOD PROCESSING
AND HANDLING TOOLS
Room/
Type Lower
Grinding
Stones
Upper
Grinding
Stones/
Processors
Other
Grinding/
Abrading
Tools
Vessels
(bowls/
mortars)
Pestles Hamer-
stones Total %
98/K/77 - 5 1 5 2 1 14 18.9
98/K/66 - - - - - 1 1 1.35
98/K/46 1 8 2 1 2 1 15 20.3
00/K/51 2 - 2 2 1 1 8 10.8
00/K45 - 5 3 1 - 4 13 17.6
00/K/30 - - - - - - - -
00/K/05 1 - - 1 - 1 3 4.05
00/K/87+
00/K/70
- 3 2 - - - 5 6.75
00/K/22 - - 1 - - - 1 1.35
Court -
00/K/10
3 6 1 1 1 2 14 18.9
Total 7 27 12 11 6 11 74 -
% 9.46 36.5 16.22 14.86 8.1 14.86 - 100
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TEL AVIV 35 (2008)
Fig. 4. Selected lower grinding stones from Building 00/K/10.
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
Fig. 5. Selected upper and lower grinding stones from Building 00/K/10.
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in the court, followed by Room 98/K/46 (which has direct access to the
court and contained many upper grinding stones) with two such tools. Room
00/K/45 contained four hammerstones (crushers?) grouped together, and
Room 00/K/51, with a cluster of eight tools, revealed no definite upper
grinding stones (yet it had two fragments of unidentified grinding tools, i.e.,
grinding tools that could not be identified as either upper or lower, and two
lower grinding tools).
DISCUSSION
Food processing activities or food-related behaviours are among the more
conspicuous day-to-day activities expressed in the archaeological record of Iron
Age settlements. Much anthropological and archaeological research has been
conducted on the social implications of food (e.g., Caplan 1994; Curtis 2001;
Fig. 6. Selected stone vessels/mortars from Building 00/K/10.
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
Delwen 1999; Goody 1982; Masson 1996; Mennell et al. 1992; Messer 1984;
Murcott 1988). These investigations suggest that in complex societies where
a large amount of the total food consumed was vegetal (i.e., originated from
farming sources), food processing, was carried out in the vicinity of the familial
home by family members. The grinding and pounding of the crops and the final
preparation were primarily done by the women of the household. These studies
occasionally note the relationship between specific locations within buildings
and their immediate surroundings and food processing tools, as well as the
relationships between processing tools and specific persona.
When viewing food handling as a hierarchical structure, e.g., acquisition,
alteration/processing, distribution and discarding of waste, the spatial positioning
of food processing tools indicates where food was processed, where tools were
stored and the nature of food processing tool kits. Another aspect that is related to
the spatial position of these tools is the whereabouts of women-related activities.
Assemblages similar to the one retrieved from Building 00/K/10 were found
at many other Iron Age sites (see for example Ben-Ami 2005; Fantalkin 2001; Gal
and Alexander 2000; Hovers 1996; Ilan 1999; Lederman 1999; Rosenberg
forthcoming a; Rosenberg forthcoming b), suggesting that similar phenomena
characterize other rural Iron Age settlements. As at Megiddo, these assemblages
show a dominance of basalt and limestone (local or imported) for grinding tools.
At these sites, food-related stone tools were mostly retrieved from domestic
contexts and, as stated, were often found near walls and entrances to rooms and
in courts.
The amount, diversity and spatial distribution of stone food processing tools
in Building 00/K/10 imply that the household was a self-sufficient unit (see also
Gadot and Yasur-Landau 2006). The large numbers of tools, their frequency
and their diversity offer a wide range of food processing possibilities, including
grinding and pounding, crushing, stirring and mixing, leaching and soaking, etc.
Therefore, a wide range of food stuffs, including cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat
and spices could have been processed with these stone tools.
The hypothesis that the social unit that occupied the house was probably
larger than a single nuclear family—possibly a joint, extended family (Gadot and
Yasur-Landau 2006: 456, and see discussion therein for the possible number of
individuals occupying the building with regard to the Naroll [1962] formula)—is
strengthened by the notion that there was a partition or division of space within the
compound. This division of space is seen in the clear clustering of food processing
tools and their total or nearly total absence from some of the rooms. This seems
to point toward the isolation of at least part of the food processing activity within
the household. This differentiation could indicate some sort of spatial restriction
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TEL AVIV 35 (2008)
or could symbolize ownership rights to parts of the building. If this was the case,
then it can be postulated that at least four nuclear family units occupied the building
and that the yard was a communal area that provided unobstructed access to all the
building inhabitants. As such, the court may have been the place where the majority
of the meals took place. It is also possible that it was used as the place for communal
processing of food or for the processing of certain substances which may have been
difficult to process indoors.
It seems that food processing activity had preferred spaces in the building. Thus,
Gadot and Yasur-Landau’s suggestion (2006: 454) that grinding was done in two
rooms only (98/K/46 and 00/K/45) and that cooking took place in Room 98/K/77
is problematic, because substantial evidence for food processing was found in other
spaces in the building (Rooms 98/K/77, 00/K/51 and the internal court) and because
there is no clear explanation for the distance between the places where food was
processed and where it was cooked. The distribution of pottery vessels related to
the preparation of food (mainly cooking vessels) suggests that they appear in at
least five rooms and the court. In this regard, it is interesting that Rooms 00/K/87
and 00/K/70, which exhibit only a few stone processing tools, feature a number of
pottery cooking vessels.
The clustering of the stone processing tools has several possible implications.
First, the larger clusters, which could be set aside as more secure (clusters with
twothree items should be dealt with cautiously since there was a potential for
horizontal movement of items during the collapse of the walls and roof), may have
been the property of a family or certain individuals. Ethnographic observations
suggest that every woman engaged in food processing had her own tool kit, though
occasionally these tools were shared (David 1998; Rucks 1995), and that the
personal kits were often stored or kept in one place. If one accepts that each of the
large clusters represents at least one active woman, we can assume that six to eight
‘food processing individuals’ occupied five different spaces in Building 00/K10
(including four rooms and the court).
The absence of food processing tools in some rooms seems to imply that units in
the most private areas in the building were possibly used as sleeping quarters. The
fact that most of the tools were found in the northeastern part of the building could
suggest that it had certain advantages in terms of environmental conditions (i.e., early
morning light, favourable wind conditions or cooler temperature in the summer). If
this is true, and the northeastern rooms were indeed preferred due to favourable
summer temperatures, we can then assume that the building was demolished by fire
during the summer.
Another possibility is that locating food processing activity in the northern or
northeastern parts of the building was due to some social convention, which may
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Rosenberg: Spatial Distribution of Food Processing Activities at Late Iron I Megiddo
have been related to restrictions over women or women’s activities. Nonetheless, the
fact that almost every space in the building contained at least one food processing
tool suggests high accessibility for women throughout the building.
SUMMARY
Building 00/K/10 offers a rare opportunity to analyze the spatial positioning of
domestic food processing activities at Megiddo during the Iron Age I. The picture
that emerges indicates that the building may have functioned as an economically
self-sufficient unit in which a few nuclear families lived together, with a partial
sharing of the means of production. Food preparation was most probably carried out
in rooms with access to the court or in the court itself, where there was an abundance
of ventilation and light.
Given the spatial distribution of food processing tools in Building 00/K/10,
specifically the clustering of these tools, it seems reasonable to suggest that the
division of labour in Late Iron Age I Megiddo had social significance that directly
related to the spatial division between nuclear family units sharing the building.
This may have been the case in the realm of the preparation of the daily meal by
each of the nuclear family units rather than in the preparation of a single, communal
meal.
Acknowledgments
I am indebted to Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin for allowing me to study
Building 00/K/10 and to Noga Blockman and Elena Zapassky for their help in
retrieving the data related to Building 00/K/10. I am grateful to Joan Schneider for
her helpful comments while this paper was in draft form.
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TEL AVIV 35 (2008)
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... (Sass 2000;Sass and Cinamon 2006;Rosenberg 2008Rosenberg , 2013. Most of the implements are associated with food production but it is clear that some were used in the processing of other substances and in the production and modification of various tools and objects (Rosenberg 2008). ...
... . Most of the implements are associated with food production but it is clear that some were used in the processing of other substances and in the production and modification of various tools and objects (Rosenberg 2008). Palynological studies regarding the Iron Age in Israel often relate to past climate reconstructions and human impact on the environment (Baruch 1986;Langgut et al. 2014) or to the use of various tools, containers, building materials or industrial complexes (Drori and Horowitz 1989;Jones et al. 1998;Weinstein-Evron and Chaim 2016). ...
... Although most of the Timna ground stone tools do not differ significantly in form or size from those found at settlement sites (cf. Rosenberg 2008; Yahalom-Mack & Panitz-Cohen 2009), we must reject the possibility that they were used primarily for food processing for the following reasons:. The quantity of tools: The great quantity of ground stone tools which were scattered all over the surface at Site 34 is unparalleled at Iron Age settlement sites. ...
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The systematic archaeological study of the Timna Valley began over 50 years ago. Since then it has become a key site for understanding ancient copper production technologies in the Near East and beyond. However, the fantastic quantity of ground stone tools which are present at the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age copper smelting sites were never systematically studied. Questions regarding their origin, distribution, typologies, and especially their role within the chaîne opératoire of copper production, were seldom addressed. Although surprising, this has been the case for almost all of the excavated metal production sites around the world. In the framework of the renewed excavations at several of the copper smelting sites at Timna, a pioneering study was conducted in which more than 1000 ground stone tools were identified and registered. These tools include, among others, grinding stones, pounders, anvils and mortars; most were manufactured of compacted sandstone and granite, exposed in several locations in the valley. In this paper we present a typology and quantitative analysis of the ground stone tools which were used by the metal workers, and offer an interpretation of how the various types of tools were employed as part of the copper production process. This provides new insights regarding the smelting process and the conditions needed for its successful outcome.
... Ground stone artifacts, including grinding slabs, querns, handstones, vessels, mortars, pestles, and other implements, are found in large quantity in Iron Age sites (ca. 1200-586 B.C.E.) in the southern Levant and attest to food processing and other activities in rural and urban contexts (Ebeling 2007(Ebeling , 2012Ebeling and Rowan 2004;Gal 1994;Hovers 1996;Rosenberg 2008Rosenberg , 2013Rowan 2011;Rowan and Ebeling 2008;Sass 2000Sass , 2004Sass and Cinamon 2006;Wolff 2007;Yahalom-Mack and Mazar 2006). Basalt vessels, perhaps the best known of all stone artifact types, are found in a variety of Bronze and Iron Age archaeological contexts including domestic structures, public buildings, temples, and tombs, suggesting that their functions ranged from the domestic to the cultic (Ebeling 2001;Sparks 2007: 126-132;Wolff 2007: 309-310). ...
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