Food in Ancient Judah: Domestic Cooking in the Time of the Hebrew Bible. By Cynthia Shafer Elliott. Bible World. Sheffield: Equinox Publishing, 2013. Pp. xiii + 239, illus. $99.95.
It is very heartening to see that a growing number of scholars are beginning to deal with topics related to daily life during the Israelite period rather than to major historical events, personalities, or pottery dating. Furthermore, archaeologists working in the Near East are starting to practice what has come to be known as "household archaeology," an approach to fieldwork that provides data for studies related to daily life in the biblical period. My own interest in the Israelite diet prompted me to read and review the present work. In the interest of full disclosure I have to state that the material from Tell Halif presented in this book was excavated under my supervision.
The present work originated as a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Sheffield under the supervision of Dr. Diana Edelman. The reason for the research is clearly stated by the author in the introduction (p.1): "Studies of numerous aspects of daily life have been made (e.g., weaving, the making of wine) but, for some reason, the preparation of food in domestic contexts (home cooking) has been overlooked. It is my hope to help remedy the situation." The main point of this research was "to determine if archaeological remains and ancient Near Eastern sources can help to illuminate the domestic gastronomical daily life of ancient Judahites during the mid- to late Iron Age II (900-586 B.C.E.) as it is exemplified in the narratives of the Hebrew Bible" (pp. 1-2). Scarcity of appropriate data made it necessary to modify and rearticulate the research question to examine whether there are "differences in domestic food preparation techniques in urban and rural environments in mid- to late Iron II Judah?" (p. 2). To accomplish this goal, four sites were selected, two urban fortified settlements (Lachish and Tell Halif) and two rural farmsteads (Khirbet er-Ras and Pisgat Ze'ev A). Out of necessity, the study is limited to the regions of the Shephelah and the highlands.
The plan of the research is laid out very well in the introduction, where the author carefully outlines the contents and aims of each chapter. Chapter 1 provides a detailed description of the methodology of the research; chapter 2 deals with the terminology of domestic settlements in Iron II Judah; chapter 3 presents a detailed study...