Babcock, Lindsay E. and Arnold, Elizabeth R., "Identifying Merchants in the Early Bronze Age City of Tell es-Safi. Isotopic Analysis of a Sacrificial Ass" (2014). Student Summer Scholars Manuscripts. 129.
A young, healthy adult female ass was recovered under the floor of an Early Bronze Age (EBA, 3600-2400 BCE) house (EB III) 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 traders who relied upon asses as beasts of burden. These merchants were involved in trade and exchange across the region during the EBA. The presence of exotic trade material, such as ivory, further supports the suggestion that the neighborhood may have been inhabited by merchants involved in trade (Greenfield et al. 2012). Stable isotope analyses tests this merchant hypothesis by examining the mobility and life history of the recovered ass with a detailed reconstruction of diet, mobility, seasonality and management practices obtained through sequential intra-tooth sampling and carbon, oxygen and strontium isotope analyses. The ass shows strontium isotope ratios outside the local signature that indicates it was born in another region and imported to the site for slaughter.