In the ancient city of Gath, now Tell es-Safi, an international team of archeologists has uncovered the earliest example of the use of a bridle bit with an equid in the Near East. (photo from Ashernet)
“The use of a bridle bit on a donkey during this period is surprising, since it was commonly assumed that donkeys were controlled with nose rings, as depicted in Mesopotamian art,” said Bar-Ilan University’s Prof. Aren Maeir, who has led the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archeological Project since its inception more than 20 years ago. Evidence of the bit was derived from the skeleton of an ancient donkey dating to the Early Bronze Age III (approximately 2700 BCE). The donkey is one of four that were found buried under neighbourhood houses, indicating the importance of the donkey in this society. Studies of the dental isotopes from this particular donkey (with the bit) demonstrate that it was born and raised in Egypt and brought to the site only in the last few months of its life, before it was sacrificed and buried beneath the floor of the house as it was being rebuilt. The research has been funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council, with additional funds from BIU and the University of Manitoba; the researchers come from BIU, U of M, University of Saskatchewan, Ariel University and Grand Valley State University; their findings were published in the May 16 edition of the journal PLOS ONE.