Unholy cow? Archaeologist claims Romans influenced Jewish ritual slaughter

Kosher slaughter of a chicken. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) An Israeli archaeologist is claiming to have discovered that Jewish ritual slaughter (shechita) was influenced not only by the kosher laws spelled out in the Torah, but also by the ancient Roman method of butchering.

“The Roman world influenced the Jews in the area of culture, but its penetration into religious and holy matters is something we have not seen before,” said Dr. Ram Buchnik, an archaeologist in the Land of Israel Studies department at northern Israel’s Kinneret College.

Buchnik based his conclusion on several archaeological sites from the late Second Temple period. At a site near the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, for example, he found that hatchets and cleavers, common slaughtering tools used by the Romans, became popular tools in Jewish kitchens over the next few hundred years. There were other Jewish sites, such as in the Lower Galilee from the same period, where Buchnik says he found evidence of “surgical” use of the same slaughtering tools for cutting meat, which allowed the meat to be preserved for longer-than-normal periods without refrigeration.

Yet near the City of David, Buchnik said he discovered that Jews began to copy the Roman way of preparing animal-based food, which was simply cutting the head off and cutting through the bones. Since Roman soldiers typically ate all of the food, the meat did not need to be kept long. At the same time, Jews of that era “did not decapitate” animals and “preserved the characteristics of Jewish slaughter,” said Buchnik, adding that close relations between Romans and Jews contributed to shared meat-preparation practices.

Posted on April 5, 2016 .