Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Walter E. Klippel

Committee Members

Paul W. Parmalee, Charles H. Faulkner, Schuyler W. Huck


This dissertation examines and compares the patterns of animal utilization by the peoples who inhabited et-Tell / Bethsaida during three historical periods: the Iron Age (specifically Iron Age IIA, IIB and IIC, 1000–740 BCE), the Early Hellenistic Period (332–142 BCE) and the Late Hellenistic / Early Roman Period (142 BCE–second century CE). The research presented here analyzes animal bones discovered during excavations from 1995 through 1998 at et-Tell, a site in present-day Israel. Zooarchaeological analysis of these remains in their archaeological contexts, in combination and comparison with data from neighboring sites, is used to identify the economic strategies and lifeways of the societies at et-Tell in each of these periods, relationships between meat producers and consumers, class and power distinctions between inhabitants in different parts of the site, and potential ethnic markers which signal identification with wider cultural groupings.

Iron Age et-Tell – apparently the capital city of the Geshurite kingdom – was a major urban center engaged in intensive agriculture. This investigation reveals significant differences in animal utilization between the bit hilani (a palace) and the city’s gate complex, providing insight into Geshurite culture and evidence of the class dynamics between the city’s elites and commoners. After an extended period of sparse inhabitation following the Assyrian conquest in the Iron Age, the Early Hellenistic Period at et-Tell was a time of rebuilding and a major agricultural focus. Intra-site differences in animal usage between the northern and southern ends of the tel indicate class differences, a more specialized system of meat procurement and likely economic relationships between inhabitants of these distinct areas within the site. During the Late Hellenistic / Early Roman Period, the faunal evidence indicates a more diverse economic base at et-Tell, known then as Bethsaida or Bethsaida-Julias. The key intra-site distinction in faunal use during this period was between the Early Roman temple and the non-temple areas, which suggests certain class differences and helps clarify the relationship of the temple’s imperial cult to the community’s economic life. Potential faunal ethnic markers during each period investigated remain ambiguous, and are better explained in terms of socio-economic differences.

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