Pigeon bones from 1,500 years ago. (photo from University of Haifa via Ashernet)
Israel’s Negev Desert has not always been a dusty, almost treeless place – 1,500 years ago, many parts of the Negev were green and produced basic foods. And a new study – led by Dr. Nimrod Marom of the University of Haifa and Tel Hai College, in cooperation with Prof. Guy Bar-Oz and Dr. Yotam Tepper of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and Dr. Baruch Rosen of the Volcani Centre – reveals the first archeological evidence of the role played by pigeons in Byzantine agriculture: improving and fertilizing soil in vineyards and orchards. Among other goals, the researchers are interested in understanding how the Byzantines managed to maintain a broad-based agricultural system in the desert, and what led to the sudden abandonment and eventual collapse of these flourishing communities.