Huqoq, Israel – Jewish diet and ethnicity

Study Period: 2011–2015

Location: Huqoq, northern Israel, eastern Galilee, Israel

Description: Recently, I was given the opportunity to investigate what was expected to be a Jewish community, inhabited approximately 2000 years ago. I was interested in examining the early evidence for kosher slaughtering and butchering of animals and required a settlement that was inhabited by a Jewish community. It was necessary to have a relatively homogeneous ethnic-religious community. Otherwise, it would not be possible to identify what was a Jewish versus Christian or other dietary patterns.

Horvat Huqoq (henceforth Huqoq; Arabic name: Yaquq) is a small ancient village located 1.5 miles to the northwest of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 6:75 as part of the inheritance of the tribe of Asher: “Huqoq, with its pasture lands….” Later rabbinic sources (third to fourth centuries A.D.) refer to the gathering and processing of the mustard plant at Huqoq, reflecting the village’s agrarian base. Huqoq flourished through the Late Roman and Byzantine periods. It was abandoned early after the Arab conquest, reoccupied during Mamluk times (13th century CE) and abandoned soon afterwards. An Arab village (Yaquq) was located on the spot from the Ottoman period until 1948. Ashtori ha-Parchi, in the 14th century, referred to an ancient synagogue floor at Yaquq (Caftor va-Pherach, p. 286).

In 1949, Kibbutz Huqoq was established nearby. The remains of the ancient settlement (ca. 25-30 dunams) are covered partly by the ruins of the village of Yaquq (ca. 10 dunams). The part of the ancient settlement that is not covered by the Arab village extends to the east, on a broad, elongated (N-S) terrace on which few architectural remains are visible on the surface (presumably due to the robbing out of stones for secondary use in the Arab village). Despite the modern overlay, blocks of houses (“insulae”) separated by streets and alleyways, and with central squares and internal courtyards, are clearly visible, apparently preserving the layout of the ancient village. In the eastern part of the modern village, roughly in the center of the ancient settlement, is a concentration of finely-carved, decorated architectural fragments made of white limestone and basalt, which presumably indicate the location of the synagogue.

Haskel Greenfield in front of mikveh excavated at Huqoq, 2012

Haskel Greenfield in front of mikveh excavated at Huqoq, 2012

Excavations under the directorship of Jodi Magness (Univ. of North Carolina) began in 2011 in the center and periphery of the ancient site (http://jodimagness.org/).

Ritual baths (mikvaot), cisterns, and houses from the Late Roman-early Byzantine period were investigated around the periphery of the site. In the center of the site, the floor of a large synagogue was discovered, which was sealed by a large Mamluk structure.

My role in the excavations is as the zooarchaeologist to investigate issues of subsistence and taphonomy.

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