Milk and Honey: the Diet of the Israelites
The Old Testament portrayal of Canaan as a ‘land flowing with milk and honey’ has determined many assessments of the Israelite diet. These fail to take into account the literary and rhetorical nature of the biblical materials. They also fail to make critical use of the many available resources from archaeology, palaeopathology, archaeozoology, and comparative anthropology. The more realistic assessment of Israelite diet that is offered owes much to Peter Garnsey's studies of food issues in the classical world. Garnsey pioneered the utilization of nutritional anthropology in the study of Graeco-Roman diet and society convincingly demonstrating the frequency of food scarcity and the poor diet of most subjects of the Roman empire. A careful assessment of Israelite diet, taking into account all the information now available, suggests that most Israelites had a very poor diet which resulted in poor health status and low life expectancy.
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