Want to make a Roman dinner?

One of the things we deal with regularly in our studies at Tell es-Safi/Gath are the types of food that were consumed in various periods (what they ate, who they prepared it, etc.), and the differences seen between different cultures and periods (such as changes in diet with the arrival of the Philistines).

Our analyses include analysis of food remains, butchery practice, cooking vessels, cooking installations, etc. There is a lot of information in the archaeological record relating to food – as it is today, food was more than just something to get the needed calories – it was a central, and very defining aspect of every culture.

Below, for example, you can see the excavation of a Philistine “pebble hearth” in progress. This is a type of cooking/heating installation that appears in Philistia at the beginning of the Iron Age, with the arrival of the Philistines, and continues to be used for several centuries before disappearing. Parallels to this type of installation can be found in some regions of the Aegean, and in Cyprus during this period. The hearth has been “sliced” in half, to examine the various parts and its relationship to other stratigraphic elements:

Now if you want to get a feeling of what it was like to eat in antiquity, <a href="“>check out this interesting link, which discusses how to make a meal as it would have been in Roman times. While this is not exactly the same as what would have been eaten and cooked at Canaanite, Philistine, or Judahite Gath, it does give a nice idea about many of the practices, and the types of foods. Keep in mind that many foods that we consider a central part of our “menu” today – were not available in the ancient near east (such as potatoes, tomatoes and corn).

Perhaps, this coming Pesach (Passover) or Easter, why don’t you make a Roman meal for you and your friends/family?


5 thoughts on “Want to make a Roman dinner?

  1. Time for a stupid question (my forte):

    If this type of hearth coincides with the arrival of the Philistines at the beginning of the Iron Age, then it would seem that we should find examples of it at the place where they came from in the Bronze Age, no?

    You mention parallel examples from the same time in the Aegean & Cyprus, but how do you know that they came from there, rather than migrating to there from Philistia (or wherever they originally came from)?


  2. arenmaeir

    Hearths are known in the Levant in the MB, but not in the LB, and then appear quite suddenly in Philistia with the arrival of the Philistines. On the other hand, they are known from some parts of the Aegean during the LB and Iron I. This fits in with a large set of other facets fo the Philistine material culture which indicate strong connections with various cultures in the Aegean, Anatolia, Cyprus and other regions. I don’t think you can speak of one place of origin of the Philistines – I believe they originated from various places, and then settled together, along with some local Canaanite, in Philistia during the early Iron Age, and formed what we know as the Philistine culture.


  3. Josh Lipson

    No kidding! I thought it looked familiar. I was working in those squares (on the far end of Area A) when we found the hearths.


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