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In Canaan and Ancient Israel, people depended on storing sufficient food, fodder and seed to sustain them from one harvest to the next, and a little beyond. In the Bronze and Iron Age, people in the southern Levant never developed the kind of centralized storage and redistribution systems common in Egypt and Mesopotamia.


Cooking pot from Tel Beth Shean

Families dedicated a good amount of time and floor space to storage. Ceramic storage jars or clay bins were used to store foodstuffs or liquids by sealing them to trap in carbon dioxide and thus prevent spoilage. Under the dry environment conditions of the southern Levant, it was necessary to store more than was needed between harvests. With poor harvests coming as frequently as one year in every four, farmers always had to keep a reserve of seed stock on hand.

Fermentation, oil extraction and drying were all ways of converting food into more stable, and hence, storable products. Feeding harvested crops to livestock was a means of "storage on the hoof" -- the animals converted the fodder into meat or milk.

Food products were stored in large and small pithoi jars, such as those seen in the exhibit.




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