Identifying Cultural Habits and Economical Preferences in the Islamic Period, Mount Zion, Jerusalem


  • Linoy Namdar Tel Aviv University
  • Jennifer Zimni German Protestant Institute of Archaeology
  • Omri Lernau University of Haifa
  • Dieter Vieweger Biblical-Archaeological Institute, Bergische Universität Wuppertal
  • Yuval Gadot Tel Aviv University
  • Lidar Sapir-Hen Tel Aviv University



zooarchaeology, animal economy, fish remains, earthquakes, Mount Zion, Late Islamic period


Archaeological and historical sources describe differently the course of events that occurred during the Islamic conquest of Jerusalem. Was the transition from the Byzantine to the Islamic period a short and dramatic event or a long and steady process? This study aims to examine the Islamic cultural influences over Jerusalem during the Byzantine/Umayyad period and later post-earthquake of the 8th century CE. Thus, we carried out a study of Mount Zion’s (seasons 2018 and 2019) faunal assemblages, analyzing the species discovered at the site, their demography and distribution between the different architectural contexts. The focus was on evaluating the cultural identity and economic preferences of the local population.

The remains we found indicate that the economy was based mainly on caprines, pigs and fish. As the site was located inside the Jerusalem walls, the locals gained their meat supply from the local markets and might have been involved in agriculture outside the walls. Although the site experienced architectural alterations between the two periods, the Christian population remained, and their faunal economy did not change from the Byzantine period till after the earthquake.

Author Biographies

  • Linoy Namdar, Tel Aviv University

    Linoy Namdar is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University. Her main research interests are the livestock economy of urban and rural settlements, animal Paleopathologies and the “Secondary Products Revolution.” Major publications deal with ancient economies and cultural identity through the faunal remains.

  • Jennifer Zimni, German Protestant Institute of Archaeology

    Jennifer Zimni’s main research interest is urbanism in Jerusalem. As a co-director, together with Dieter Vieweger and Katja Soennecken, of the DEI Mount Zion project, her research focusses on the southern slope of Mount Zion throughout the ages.

  • Omri Lernau, University of Haifa

    Omri Lernau’sis working on fish remains in archaeological excavations, for the past 30 years. His main research interest is regarding the role of fish and fishing at the transition phase during the early Neolithic period; the export of fish from Egypt to the entire Eastern Mediterranean including the Levant, Anatolia, Cyprus (both from the Nile and from the hypersaline lagoon of Bardawil in along the Mediterranean coast of Sinai); trade in fish from the Red Sea along Roman-Byzantine caravan roads; and taboos about certain fish as they appear in the Bible and in archaeological excavations.

  • Dieter Vieweger, Biblical-Archaeological Institute, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

    Prof. Dieter Vieweger’s main research interests are the Bronze and Iron Age archaeology in Southern Levant, and Old Testament studies. Dieter is the director of GPIA-excavations on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, and on Tall Ziraʿa, Jordan.

  • Yuval Gadot, Tel Aviv University

    Prof. Yuval Gadot is the head of the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures in Tel Aviv University. He is researching Jerusalem's archaeology throughout its long history and the relation between the city and its rural periphery. His most recent publication is “The Landfill of Early Roman Jerusalem: The 2013‒2014 Excavations in Area D3,” now available from Penn State University Press.

  • Lidar Sapir-Hen, Tel Aviv University

    Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Curator of Archaeozoological Collections of the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History, Tel Aviv University. Her main research interest is the interaction between humans and animals in the past. Major publications deal with the social complexity of ancient populations, identity and cultural aspects as reflected in food production and consumption. Lidar is currently involved with several excavations of sites that date from the early Neolithic through to Late Antiquity periods.


al-Din Yousefi, N. 2019. “Confusion and consent: Land tax (Kharaj) and the construction of judicial authority in the early Islamic empire (ca. 12–183 A.H./634–800 C.E.).” Sociology of Islam 7(2–3): 93–131.

Amiran, D.H.K. 1996. “Location index for earthquakes in Israel since 100 B.C.E.” Israel Exploration Journal 46(1/2): 120–130.

Amiran, D.H.K, E. Arieh and T. Turcotte. 1994. “Earthquakes in Israel and adjacent areas: Observations.” Israel Exploration Journal 44(3): 260–305.

Avni, G. 2011. “‘From polis to Madina’ revisited—urban change in Byzantine and early Islamic Palestine.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 21(3): 301–329.

––– 2014. The Byzantine-Islamic Transition in Palestine: An Archaeological Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bartosiewicz, L. 2013. Shuffling Nags, Lame Ducks: The Archaeology of Animal Disease. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Binford, L. R. 1981. Bones: Ancient Men and Modern Myths. New York: Academic Press.

Bouchnick, R. 2018. “Jerusalem, the Old City: The faunal remains.” Hadashot Arkheologiyot 130: 1–29.

––– 2020. “The faunal remains from Strata V-I in Jerusalem excavations” In The Tyropoeon Valley (Givati Parking Lot), edited by Z. Greenhut, 865–914. Jerusalem: IAA Reports 66/3.

Campopiano, M. 2013. “State, land tax and agriculture in Iraq from the Arab conquest to the crisis of the Abbasid Caliphate (Seventh-Tenth Centuries).” Studia Islamica 107(1): 1–37.

Cope, C. R. 1999. “Faunal remains and butchery practices from Byzantine and Islamic contexts (1993–1994 Seasons).” In Caesarea papers, vol 2: Herod’s Temple, the Provincial Governor’s Praetorium and Granaries, the later Harbor, a Gold Coin Hoard and other Studies., edited by K. G. Holum, A. Raban, and J. Patrich, 405–417. Portsmouth.

Desse. J. 1994. “Archaeozoology of the Near East: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on the Archaeozoology of Southwestern Asia and Adjacent Areas.” Paléorient 20(2): 176–177.

Elad, A. 1995. Medieval Jerusalem and Islamic Worship: Holy Places, Ceremonies, Pilgrimage. Islamic History and Civilization. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Fadzlillah, N. A, B.Yaakob, M. Che Man, J. Aizat, R. Suhaimi Ab and H. A. Al-kahtani. 2011. “Halal food issues from Islamic and modern science perspectives.” 2nd International Conference on Humanities, Historical and Social Sciences IPEDR 17: 159–163.

Faure, E. and A. C. Kitchener. 2009. “An archaeological and historical review of the relationships between felids and people.” Anthrozoos 22(3): 221–238.

Golani, D, and S.V. Bogorodsky. 2010. “The fishes of the Red Sea-Reappraisal and updated checklist.” Zootaxa 2463: 1–135.

Goren, M. 1983. Fresh Water Fishes of Israel. Biology and Taxonomy (Hebrew). Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv.

Government of Palestine. 1931. Palestine. Blue Book. 1930. Jerusalem.

––– 1943. Livestock Enumeration. Jerusalem.

Grauer, A. L. 2012. A Companion to Paleopathology. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Greenwood, P.H. 1976. “A review of the family centropomid (Pisces, Perciformes).” Zoology 29(1): 1–81.

Hawting, G. R. 2000. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661–750. London: Routledge.

Hongo, H. and R. H Meadow. 1998. “Pig exploitation at Neolithic Çayönü Tepesi (Southeastern Anatolia).” Research Papers in Science and Archaeology 15: 77–98.

Horwitz, L. K. 1995. “Fauna from the Nahal Mitnan Farm.” Atiqot 26: 15–19.

––– 1998. “Animal exploitation during the Early Islamic period in the Negev: The fauna from Elat-Elot.” ’Atiqot 36: 27–38.

––– 2009. “Roman through Ottoman Period fauna from H. Shallale.” In Shallale –Ancient City of Carmel, edited by S. Dar, 321–340. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Horwitz, L. K., E. Tchernov and S. Dar. 1990. “Subsistence and environment on Mount Carmel in the Roman-Byzantine and Mediaeval Periods: The evidence from Kh. Sumaqa.” Israel Exploration Journal 40(4): 287–304.

Karcz, I. 2004. “Implications of some early Jewish sources for estimates of earthquakes hazard in the Holy Land.” Annals of Geophysics 47(2–3): 759–792.

Klein, R. G. and K. Cruz-Uribe. 1984. The Analysis of Animal Bones from Archeological Sites. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago press.

Lernau, O. 1986. “Fishbones excavated in two Late Roman-Byzantine Castella in the southern desert of Israel.” In Fish and Archaeology, Studies in Osteometry, Taphonomy, Seasonality and Fishing Methods, edited by D. C. Brinkhuizen and A. T. Clason, 85–102. Oxford: BAR International Series 294.

––– 1998. “Fish remains at Elat-Elot.” ‘Atiqot 36: 125–126.

––– 2005. “Fish remains from ‘En Gedi.” ‘Atiqot 49: 49–56.

––– 2018. “Fish remains.” In Faunal Evidence: Catalogues, Worked Bones, Ivory, Horn, Shells and Fish, in P.M. Fischer and T. Bürge, Two Late Cypriot City Quarters at Hala Sultan Tekke The Söderberg Expedition 2010—2017, edited by D. S. Reese and O. Lernau. Uppsala: Studies in Mediterranean Archaeology 147.

––– 2020. “The fish remains from Strata V-I.” In Jerusalem: Excavations in the Tyropoeon Valley (Givati Parking Lot). Vol. 2: The Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods. Part 3: Complementary Studies of Various Finds, edited by D. Ben-Amy and Y. Tchekhanovets: 915–922. Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority Reports.

Lyman, L. R. 1994. “Quantitative units and terminology in zooarchaeology.” American Antiquity 59(1): 36–71.

––– 2008. Quantitative Paleozoology. Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Manor, M., R. Rabinovitch and L.K.H. Horwitz. 1996. “Diachronic changes in urban diet: The historical periods at Bet She'an, Israel.” Archaeozoologia VIII(1,2): 89–104.

Marom, N., M. Meiri, Y. Tepper, T. Erickson-gini and H. Reshef. 2019. “Zooarchaeology of the social and economic upheavals in the Late Antique-Early Islamic sequence of the Negev Desert.” Scientific Reports 9(6702): 1–11.

Meadow, R. H. 1999. “The use of size index scaling techniques for research on archaeozoological collections from the Middle East.” In Historia Animalium Ex Ossibus: Festschrift Für Angela von Den Driesch, edited by C. Becker, H. Manhart, J. Peters and J. Schibler, 285–300. Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH.

Monchot, H. 1999. “Mixture analysis and mammalian sex ratio among Middle Pleistocene Mouflon of Arago Cave, France.” Quaternary Research 52(2): 259–268.

Morales, A., and K. Rosenlund. 1979. Fish Bone Measurements: An Attempt to Standardize the Measuring of Fish Bones from Archaeological Sites. Copenhagen: Zoologisk Museum.

Nadan, A. 2006. The Palestinian Peasant Economy Under the Mandate. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Namdar, L., Y. Gadot, G. Mavronanos, B. Gross and L. Sapir-hen. 2022. “Frozen in time: Caprine pen from an Early Islamic earthquake complex in Tel Beth Shemesh.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 45: 1–10.

Namdar, L., and L. Sapir-Hen. 2023a. “The Byzantine and Early Islamic bone objects from Area I (2018-2020).” In Urbanism in Jerusalem from the Iron Age to the Medieval Period at the Example of the DEI Excavations on Mount Zion, edited by J. Zimni, 826–863. Wuppertal: University of Wuppertal.

––– 2023b. “The Faunal Remains from the Islamic Period, Area I.” In Urbanism in Jerusalem from the Iron Age to the Medieval Period at the Example of the DEI Excavations on Mount Zion, edited by J. Zimni, 826–863. Wuppertal: University of Wuppertal.

Nelson, S. M. 1998. Ancestors for the Pigs: Pigs in Prehistory. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology.

Palm, H. W., U. Knaus, B. Wasenitz, A. A. Bischoff and S. M. Strauch. 2018. “Proportional up scaling of African Catfish (Clarias Gariepinus Burchell, 1822) commercial recirculating aquaculture systems disproportionally affects nutrient dynamics.” Aquaculture 491: 155–168.

Payne, S. 1973. “Kill-off patterns in sheep and goats: The mandibles from Asvan Kale.” Anatolian Studies 23: 281–303.

Reich, R., E. Shukron, and O. Lernau. 2008. “The Iron Age II finds from the rock-cut ‘pool’ near the spring in Jerusalem.” In Israel in Transition; from Late Bronze II to Iron IIa (c. 1250–850 B.C.E.), edited by L. L. Grabbe: 138–143. London: T. & T. Clark.

Sasson, A. 1998. “The pastoral component in the economy of hill country sites in the Intermediate Bronze and Iron Ages: Archaeo-ethnographic case studies.” Tel Aviv 25(1): 3–51.

Silver, I. A. 1969. “The ageing of domestic animals.” In Science in Archaeology: A Survey of Progress and Research, edited by D. R Brothwell and E. Higgs, 283–302. London: Thames and Hudson.

Stiner, M. C., S. L. Kuhn, S. Weiner and O. Bar-Yosef. 1995. “Differential burning, recrystallization, and fragmentation of archaeological bone.” Journal of Archaeological Science 22(2): 223–237.

Van Neer, W. 1989. “Contribution à l’ostéométrie de La Perche Du Nil Lates Niloticus (Linnaeus, 1758).” In Fiches Descriptives Animale Pour l’archéologie: Série A.: Poissons, 5. Juan-Les-Pins: Centre de Recherches Archéologiques Du CNRS, APDCA., edited by J. Desse and N. Desse-Berset.

Van Neer, W., B. De Cupere and M. Waelkens. 1997. “Remains of local and imported fish at the ancient site of Sagalassos (Burdur Prov., Turkey).” In Sagalassos IV–Report on the Survey and Excavation Campaigns of 1994 and 1995, edited by M. Waelkens and J. Poblome: 571–586. Leuven: Acta Archaeologica Lovaniensia Monographiae 9.

Verstegen, U. 2019. “Byzantine Jerusalem.” In Routledge Handbook on Jerusalem, edited by S. A. Mourad, N. Koltun-Fromm and B. Der Matossian, 64–77. Georgetown: Routledge.

Vieweger, D., J. Zimni, F. Schöpf, and M. Würz. 2020. “Anzeige von DEI Excavations on the Southwestern Slope of Mount Zion (2015–2019).” Archäologischer Anzeiger: 1–76.

Von-den D. A. 1976. A Guide to the Measurement of Animal Bones from Archaeological Sites. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Whitcomb, D. 2011. “Jerusalem and the beginnings of the Islamic City.” In Unearthing Jerusalem. 150 Years of Archaeological Research in the Holy City, edited by D. Whitcomb, A. Gideon, and G. Katharina, 417–452. Winona Lake: Penn State University Press.

Zeder, M. A. 2006. “Reconciling rates of long bone fusion and tooth eruption and wear in sheep (Ovis) and goat (Capra).” In Recent Advances in Ageing and Sexing Animal Bones, edited by D. Ruscillo, 87–118. Proceedings of the 9th Conference of the International Council of Archaeozoology, Durham, August 2002. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Zeder, M. A., and H. A. Lapham. 2010. “Assessing the reliability of criteria used to identify postcranial bones in sheep, Ovis, and goats, Capra.” Journal of Archaeological Science 37(11): 2887–2905.

Zeder, M. A., X. Lemoine and A. Payne. 2015. “A new system for computing long-bone fusion age profiles in Sus Scrofa.” Journal of Archaeological Science 55: 135–150.






How to Cite

Namdar, L., Zimni, J., Lernau, O., Vieweger, D., Gadot, Y., & Sapir-Hen, L. (2024). Identifying Cultural Habits and Economical Preferences in the Islamic Period, Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 10(2), 175-194.