• animal exploitation;
  • border town;
  • cultural marker;
  • Iron Age I;
  • Late Bronze Age;
  • pig abundance;
  • Tel Beth-Shemesh;
  • zooarchaeology


We present a zooarchaeological analysis of the faunal remains at Tel Beth-Shemesh, a site located in the Shephelah region of Israel, which has been dated to the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age I. The site, identified as the biblical city of Beth-Shemesh, was a Canaanite border town between Philistine and Israelite settlements and of great importance in our attempts to understand the social and cultural transformations that occurred in the southern Levant during those periods. This study contributes to a more accurate understanding of the cultural identity of the site's inhabitants by exploring the cultural differences between populations as reflected in their different dietary preferences. We analysed the subsistence economy at the site, the general exploitation patterns, herd management strategies and consumption practices, all of which are based mostly on domestic livestock. We determined the cultural identity at the site mainly by comparing the representation of pig remains with that found at other sites in the region, and offer various explanations for the differences. The comparisons revealed clear differences between Tel Beth-Shemesh and other known nearby Philistine sites. This site appears to have possessed a self-contained production and consumption economy with similarities in the general pattern of animal exploitation between the two periods. These similarities constitute evidence for the continuation of the local population and of its culture at the site during the period of turmoil that swept the region during the transition to the Iron Age. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.