Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Haskel Greenfield and Lindsay Babcock


Anthropology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


A young, healthy adult female ass was recovered under the floor of an EB III house at the site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel. This animal was located within a commoner domestic neighborhood at the edge of the city. It has been suggested that this urban space may have been the location of the homes and work spaces of merchants who relied upon asses as beasts of burden. These merchants would have been involved in exchange systems across the region during the EBA. The presence of exotic trade material (e.g. ivory) and administration (e.g. cylinder seal) further supports the suggestion that this commoner neighborhood may have been inhabited by merchants involved in local and/or inter-regional exchange (Greenfield et al. 2012). Stable isotope analyses, obtained through sequential intra-tooth sampling and carbon, oxygen and strontium isotope analyses of the asses teeth, are used to evaluate this merchant hypothesis . If the hypothesis is to be supported, the isotopic signature of the ass is expected to show indicators of high mobility - with strontium isotope ratios outside the local signature and a high diversity in strontium isotope values. The isotope analysis will enable a detailed reconstruction of the life history, diet, mobility, seasonality of movement and management practices of domestic asses during the EB of the southern Levant. The importance of this taxon to the religious and economic realms of the EBA of the Near East is discussed.

Conference Name

The 2014 ASOR Annual Meeting

Conference Location

San Diego, CA

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