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Apparently Chicken Eating Started in Judean Hills of Israel


Why are thousands of very well preserved ancient chicken bones such a big deal?

The ancient city of Maresha, in Judea, which flourished between 400 and 200 BCE, is the earliest site known today where economic exploitation of chickens was widely practiced, according to Israeli archaeologists.

“The site is located on a trade route between Jerusalem and Egypt,” Lee Perry-Gal, a doctoral student in the department of archaeology at the University of Haifa, told NPR. As a result, she explained, it was a meeting place of cultures, “like New York City.”

Not too long ago, the archaeologists digging at the site, located near Beit Guvrin, were surprised to unearth a collection of chicken bones.

The fact that humans kept chickens domesticated was not a surprise, since this is known to have been going on for thousands of years, starting in Southeast Asia and China.

However, the older sites contained scattered chicken bones, indicating that the chickens had been raised for cockfighting, or for special ceremonies.

Maresha, though, contained more than a thousand chicken bones. “They were very, very well-preserved,” explained Perry-Gal, whose findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The bones bear knife marks, from butchering, and there were twice as many bones from female birds as male, indicating that they were being raised for their meat, not for cockfighting.


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