Archaeologists working in Jerusalem have found decapitated toads, left as funerary offerings, in a 4,000 year old tomb.
The tomb, sealed in antiquity and left untouched until now, contains what the lead archaeologists are calling a “burial kit.” They say the kit was part of an ancient custom that equipped the dead with things they would need in the afterlife. In this case, the kit consisted of intact jars and bowls, one of which contained the remains of at least nine decapitated toads.
Archaeologists also found traces of date palms and myrtle bushes, plants not native to the area, on the jars. According to Tel Aviv University’s Dr. Dafna Langgut, date palms were symbols of “fertility and rejuvenation” at the time the tomb was created. The symbolism associated with the date palms has led the research team to hypothesize the plant residues were from an orchard planted in the area to facilitate funeral rituals.
The excavations, conducted by the Israeli Antiquities Authority, took place near the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo ahead of construction aimed at expanding an existing neighborhood. Researchers say the area has always been an attractive place to live, citing the numerous ancient settlements, temples and tombs that have been found in the region.
The research team will present their findings for the first time on October 18 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region” conference. We hope to learn more about the decapitated toads and why they might have been left as offerings after their presentation. We’ll keep you posted.