David Tanami, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, works his way into the narrow tomb opening to bring out a jar at a Canaanite burial site near Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo.

4,000-Year-Old Canaanite Burial Included a Jar of Decapitated Toads

(Read the article on one page)

Archaeologists discovered the peculiar inclusion of the remains of nine headless toads inside a well-preserved jar positioned carefully inside a 4,000-year-old tomb in Jerusalem, Israel. Experts suggest that the finding may shed new light on burial customs during the Canaanite period of the Middle Bronze Age.

Jar of Headless Toads Accompanied the Deceased to the Afterlife

Any archaeologist will agree that unearthing a tomb that's been sealed for thousands of years is like unwrapping a Christmas gift for anyone involved in the excavation works. If the tomb contains something as bizarre and mysterious as a jar of headless toads is, then the gift is all the more surprising. According The Times of Israel , that's exactly what a team of archaeologists discovered inside a 4,000-year-old burial in Jerusalem, as the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on September 25. The excavators suggest that the jar might have been a funeral offering to feed the dead in the afterlife.

Jar with remains of the toads from a Canaanite burial site near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo. (Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Jar with remains of the toads from a Canaanite burial site near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo. (Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, Israel Antiquities Authority)

The dig’s co-director, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Shua Kisilevitz, wasn’t surprised to discover a food offering in a burial as those were common during the Bronze Age, a period of time that people believed that the deceased needed to take a “snack” to the afterlife, in case he or she would get hungry. However, finding toads is pretty odd and something that Kisilevitz hasn’t seen often before, “To the best of my knowledge, the only other place in Israel with a toad find was in Wadi Ara, and dates to the Late Bronze Age,” she told The Times of Israel .

Furthermore, Kisilevitz isn’t sure why exactly the toads were decapitated, even though she speculates that taking off the heads and toes of frogs would help to remove the animal’s toxic skin, “It could be an indication that this is how they prepared the toads,” she told The Times or Israel .

Burial Discovery a “Lucky” Find

The discovery of the burial during excavation works that took place in 2014 prior to the expansion of the Malha neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, was described as a “lucky find” by Kisilevitz and her co-dig director Zohar Turgeman-Yaffe, “For an archaeologist, finding tombs that were intentionally sealed in antiquity is a priceless treasure, because they are a time capsule that allows us to encounter objects almost just as they were originally left,” they said in an IAA press release as The Times of Israel report . “This section of the Nahal Repha’im basin was fertile ground for settlement throughout time, especially during the Canaanite period. In recent years excavations in the area have uncovered two settlement sites, two temples and a number of cemeteries, which provide new insight into the life of the local population at that time,” they added.

Other than the toad jar, Kisilevitz and Turgeman- Yaffe also found several bowls and jars still intact after removing a large rock blocking the tomb’s opening, “In one of the jars, to our surprise, we found a heap of small bones,” they told The Times of Israel .

Alex Wigman, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, holds a small jar from the Canaanite tomb in Jerusalem. (Shua Kisilevitz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Alex Wigman, an Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, holds a small jar from the Canaanite tomb in Jerusalem. (Shua Kisilevitz, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Further Analysis Reveals Intriguing Information

A very intriguing finding came to light through the analysis of sediments collected from the clay jars and examined under a microscope. The examination conducted by Dr. Dafna Langgut of Tel Aviv University, revealed that shortly before the vessels were placed in the tomb they came into contact with various plants, including date palms and myrtle bushes, which are not indigenous to Jerusalem. “This fact is interesting because this is not the natural habitat for those species and they, therefore, seem to have been planted here intentionally,” Langgut concluded as The Times of Israel report . Research and analysis on the excavation will be presented on October 18 at the conference “New Studies in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and its Region” at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The event will be open to the public.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Caves of Loltun, Mexico
It goes on speak about the challenges and wonders of Columbus’s voyage to the new lands known today as the Caribbean. It even goes on to mention Columbus’s blunder in assuming that this newly discovered land was India when in fact it was what we know today as the Bahamas.

Human Origins

Photo of Zecharia Sitchin (left)(CC0)Akkadian cylinder seal dating to circa 2300 BC depicting the deities Inanna, Utu, and Enki, three members of the Anunnaki.(right)
In a previous 2-part article (1), the authors wrote about the faulty associations of the Sumerian deities known as the Anunnaki as they are portrayed in the books, television series, and other media, which promotes Ancient Astronaut Theory (hereafter “A.A.T.”).

Opinion

Hopewell mounds from the Mound City Group in Ohio. Representative image
During the Early Woodland Period (1000—200 BC), the Adena people constructed extensive burial mounds and earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Many of the skeletal remains found in these mounds by early antiquarians and 20th-Century archaeologists were of powerfully-built individuals reaching between 6.5 and eight feet in height (198 cm – 244 cm).

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article