Prehistoric 7,200-Year-Old Vessel Reveals Large-Scale Food Storage in Ancient Near East

“For your part, take of everything that is eaten and store it away, to serve as food for you and for them.” Genesis 6:21 (The Israel Bible™)

A 7,200-year-old pottery vessel recently unearthed at the prehistoric site of Tel Tsaf in Israel’s Jordan Valley is the first evidence of the ritualistic and political significance of large-scale food storage in the ancient Near East, the University of Haifa reported Wednesday.

Prof. Danny Rosenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology heads the research project at Tel Tsaf along with Dr. Florian Klimscha of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin. The site is notable for its preservation of architecture, organic materials and other types of material culture.

“Until now, discussions of the early transition to complex societies in this area have focused mainly on later periods and on the connection between the development of socioeconomic elites and the ability of certain individuals or families to store large quantities of food, beyond their own needs for survival,” Rosenberg explained.

“The findings at Tel Tsaf provide first-hand evidence of the early connection between food storage on a large scale and the observance of a ritual associated with the successful storage and preservation of agricultural yields,” Rosenberg added.

“It’s really uncommon and doesn’t look like any vessel we have.”

The findings from Tel Tsaf include numerous silos used for large-scale grain storage, evidence of the storage of food on a scale not previously documented at sites from that period.

The researchers noted that the desire and ability to store food was an “important step” in humans’ transition to more complex social structures, and pointed out the relevance of the site’s location by the Jordan River, a major water source.

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