Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The pilgrimage economy of Early Roman Jerusalem (1st century BCE–70 CE)

Journal of Archaeological Science

Volume 40, Issue 12, December 2013, Pages 4369–4376:

Religious and historical sources suggest that pilgrimage formed a major source of Jerusalem's economy during the Early Roman period due to the Temple's role as a religious and judicial center for the Jewish diaspora. Until now, this assertion has been supported by little material evidence.

In this study, the carbon and nitrogen isotope values of local arcahaeological and, modern wild herbivores from known environments were used to determine the environmental origins of domesticated sheep and goat that were traded and consumed in Early Roman Jerusalem. Pinpointing the environmental origins of these herd animals can determine if they were raised in specialized farms in the vicinity of Jerusalem, brought to the city by local pilgrims, or were part of organized importation of sacrifice animals from desert regions that lie beyond the boundaries of the province of Judea.

The results indicate that at minimum 37% of the goat and sheep consumed in Jerusalem during the Early Roman period were brought from desert regions. The inter-provincial importation of animals to Jerusalem to meet high demands for sacrifice by pilgrims is the first material evidence for large scale economic specialization in the city. Furthermore, the results imply that desert animals were further marketed for domestic use in contemporaneous farm sites out of Jerusalem.

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