New archaeological evidence found in Jerusalem provides a window into the beliefs and rituals of ancient times.
Fascinating evidence of ancient burial and ritual customs in the Canaanite period were recently uncovered near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, including the remains of decapitated toads found in a jar in a millennia-old tomb.
The dig, launched by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), also revealed evidence of cultivation of date palms and myrtle bushes, perhaps as part of funerary rituals.
Why were decapitated toads placed in a jar in a 4,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem? The findings shed light on burial customs in the Canaanite period, also known as the Middle Bronze Age. The archaeological excavation, which took place in 2014 prior to the expansion of the Manaḥat neighborhood in Jerusalem, yielded the remains of at least nine toads and several other unique discoveries.
Shua Kisilevitz and Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, excavation directors on behalf of the IAA, explained that the section of the Nahal Repha’im basin, the site of the excavation, was fertile ground for habitats throughout time, especially during the Canaanite period.
“In recent years, excavations in the area have uncovered two habitat sites, two pagan temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time.
“For an archaeologist, finding tombs that were intentionally sealed in antiquity is a priceless treasure, because they are a time capsule that allows us to encounter objects almost just as they were originally left,” Kisilevitz and Turgeman-Yaffe said.
During the Canaanite period, “it was customary to bury the dead with offerings that constituted a kind of ‘burial kit, which, it was believed, would serve the deceased in the afterworld,” said the researchers.
“When we removed the stone that blocked the tomb opening, we were excited to discover intact bowls and jars. In one of the jars, to our surprise, we found a heap of small bones,” the two archeologists recounted.
The study of the bones, by Dr. Lior Weisbrod of the University of Haifa, revealed at least nine toads. Interestingly, they had been decapitated.
Ancient Symbols of Fertility and Rejuvenation
Another intriguing finding came to light through analysis of sediments collected from the clay jars. The examination, by Dr. Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv University, revealed that shortly before the vessels were placed in the tomb, they came into contact with various plants including date palms and myrtle bushes.
This fact is attention-grabbing because this is not the natural habitat for those species, and they therefore seem to have been planted here intentionally.
Langgut explained that the date palm symbolized fertility and rejuvenation during the ancient era, which could explain why the ancients cultivated the trees in this environment, where they do not grow naturally.
According to the scholars, these plants may have been part of an orchard planted in an area where funeral rituals were held, during which offerings of food and objects were made to the deceased. The scholars surmise that the jar with the headless toads was among these offerings.
By: World Israel News Staff