Picturing a kitchen from Ancient Judah

In the last post I provided a basic map of large artifacts as found in a room at Tell Halif. It gives us an idea of how the space may have been used, how different activities were carried out together or in close proximity with each other. From there it is another step to provide a picture of the room. I used a 3-D imaging program and a rendering program to try to bring to life the room. Of course it’s just a rough computer graphic, but at least we can get some idea of what it might have looked like.

Entering through the doorway at the north end of the “kitchen”, the first thing a visitor would notice is the smoke that fills the room. Not that it is so dense that she cannot see, but the smell is everywhere, clings to the walls. In the light of the oil lamp, which is perched on a wall ledge just to the right of the door, she sees the smoke particles dancing in the air. The visitor notices the children playing knuckle-bones on the ground. The oldest has a bowl in his lap, sorting through the lentils picking out little pieces of dirt and stalks of straw and tosses them on the ground.
As if watching over them, a small clay figurine of a woman with prominent breasts sits in a niche in the wall. The visitor may notice the oil jar not far from the door. It sits on a jar ring made out of plaited straw. A dipper juglet lies on the floor not far from it. The small jug that leans against the jar ring is empty, but may be used to serve oil at meals. Beside them is a milk pot, presumably filled with butter. A cloth lid covers it. Not far is the large water jar—an old wine jar that is used that shows the signs of fermentation only too clearly. It’s no longer used to store the wine once it is ready. It sits on a jar stand of dried clay. Beside it are the cooking dishes, a cooking pot for the stew and the newer cooking jug. A few bowls sit beside the cooking pots. The meals are served in them. Two oil lamps, one on a stand, the other on the floor light the food preparation area. A quern and grinding stone also sit here on a cloth, which catches the wheat grits used in stews and salads. A wooden mortar and several stone pestles sit just beside the quern. The most important cooking utensils are all kept here in the center of the room, where the water jar and the heart of the kitchen is.
The visitor would probably hardly notice the small juglet and milk pot standing on the shelf in the corner. Instead, she might turn around to hear the greeting of the woman of the house. Separated from the cooking area by a line of storage jars, she kneels in front of the oven, from which the smoke rises lazily and drifts through a hole in the ceiling. The visitor walks through the gap between the storage jars. To her left are jars of oil and grape molasses; to her right is a wide jar, half-filled with grain (see Figure 104). The woman at the oven asks the visitor to wait a moment. She puts her hands into a small jar and dusts them with flour. Then she picks up one of the balls in the large bowl. Over the stone she works the dough into a flat bread and slaps it on the inside of the oven. She quickly takes another flattened piece of dough from the stone in front of her and also slaps it on the interior oven wall. She had flattened that bread before.

Now the woman of the house stands up, wipes her hands and invites the visitor to look at the large cloth for a mantle she just started weaving. She isn’t yet far along, but the border has an intricate pattern. She takes a pick-up stick from the side of the loom and points out the flowers woven into the edge. From a bowl beside the loom, she takes two balls of yarns and compares the colors. Suddenly she turns around, remembering the bread in the oven. With a stick she takes it out quickly and puts it in a bowl on top of some bread she baked before. Flattening a few more dough balls, she fills the oven again.

Not far from the oven is also the water-carrying jug. She probably used some water when mixing the dough. She now pours some water in a smaller jug and walks over to the corner. Here stand two wine jars, one to the side of the grinding basin, the other propped against the wall in a corner of the grinding basin (see Figure 105). Here is where the woman of the house grinds the flour for the bread. A grinding stone lies perched on the high stone. The woman takes the dipper juglet and takes some wine out of a jar. She pours it into the jug, adding it to the water and offers a drink to the visitor. She excuses herself, while she quickly intervenes into a dispute among the children. When she hurries back to the oven, the bread is already burnt at the edges. The visitor excuses herself. It seems that for the moment it’s just too busy in this kitchen.

This entry was posted in Archaeology, artifacts, excavations, Fiction, Tell Halif and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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