Students help archaeologists dig through manure to unearth a stable for donkeys, sheep and goats.
Next time you imagine ancient Israel, picture stables and pastures full of donkeys, sheep and goats. A recent archaeological discovery found strong evidence that humans raised these animals in Israel around 500 A.D.
Professors from DePaul University in Chicago and archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority set out with a Fulbright scholar grant to dig in Ein Avdat National Park, located in glorious southern Israel. To turn their snazzy academic team into a ragtag, plucky crew, they brought along local high school students. Together, the group unearthed … some manure.
But not just any manure. This was donkey, sheep and goat manure, meaning they’d found a clue about how people used to live back then: with donkeys, sheep and goats.
“The identification of the stable was corroborated by an almost one-meter thick layer of organic matter consisting of donkey, sheep and goat manure on the floor of the building,” the researchers said in a statement.
The team continued to dig through a yard of ancient manure – that’s what these these guys decided to do that day – and were rewarded for their persistence. They unearthed an entire stable from the Byzantine Era made up of a number of stone rooms. They also found stone basins, which probably used to hold the animals’ food and water until an earthquake destroyed the stable in the seventh century.
“The youngsters did an excellent job,” said Dr. Erickson-Gini, one of the researchers. “They displayed great interest in the research and the project … We enjoyed working with them, and I know that they also enjoyed it, too.”
Indeed, the teens were lucky enough to spend the hot, sunny day sifting through hundreds of buckets of manure. We’re sure they enjoyed it, too.
The group also discovered well-preserved grape seeds. They plan to analyze the seeds’ DNA (perhaps making the teens sort each nucleotide by hand) to figure out what kinds of grapes used to grow there. This is important because it could let us know what kind of wine people drank back then, allowing us to start brewing our own “antiquity style” wine and selling it to inebriated historians. Startup idea?
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