Archaeobotany, Storage Archaeoentomology and Plants in Jewish Tradition







Chemistry Building 128, 1st Floor

Career Highlights:

Research Interests and Goals:

        Several fields are covered:
1. Ancient environments and ecology, as well as the economy and the diet of ancient man;
2. Designing tools for easier processing of the material, such as computerized keys;
3. Origin of cultivated plants;
4. Other contributions to archaeology, including pest insects, idolatry in the Roman period, early maritime trade, and dating the final stage of Bar Kokhba rebellion;
5. Identifying plant names and defining acts of work and concepts connected with crop processing in Jewish tradition.

Our goals are to keep the archaeobotany in Israel to top level and to produce tools that will simplify the plant processing of plant finds. In addition, to put the botanical research of ancient Jewish tradition on scientific and archaeobotanical bases.

Previous and Current Research:

        Over the past 30 years, unique ancient plant remains have been uncovered in Israel that have vastly improved the understanding of the origins of agriculture, of the economy and diet of the hunter-gatherer man in very early periods. Among the findings studied are:
1. Ear fragments of wild barley, apparently cultivated, from Netiv Hagdud, Lower Jordan Valley, and dated to the early aceramic Neolithic period, 10,000 years ago;
2. Charred, 19,000-year-old remnants of wild wheat, barley, grape, olive, almond and pistachio found at Ohalo II, a submerged site on the shore of Lake Kinneret;
3. Seeds of wild pulses and other food plants, 60,000-50,000 years old, from Kebara Cave on the western slope of Mt. Carmel;
4. Waterlogged seeds of food and other plants from Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Upper Jordan Valley, some 750,000 years old;
5. Cordia myxa, used for bird liming, found at Ashkelon from the Islamic period.

6. Moreover, for importance to Jewish tradition was the identification of the five cereals from which matza can be baked and the reconsideration the olive's bulk volume.

Future Projects:


  1. 1. Reconstructing the landscape of the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov.
  2. Producing computerized keys for plant seeds by image analysis. 3. Dealing with current problems concerning Torah and science.

Present Research Group

Mina MarmorsteinLab Technician
Orit Simchoni, Ph.D.Assistant
Yoel Melamed, M.Sc.Ph.D. Student
Ehud Weiss, M.A.Ph.D. Student
Anat Hartmann M.A.Ph.D. Student
Yael Mahler-Slasky Ph.D. Student

Selected Publications

  1. Kislev, M. E. 1982. Stem rust of wheat 3300 years old found in Israel. Science 216: 993-994.

  2. Kislev, M.E. 1985. Early Neolithic horsebean from Yiftah'el, Israel. Science 228: 319-320.

  3. Kislev, M.E. 1992. Vegetal food of Bar Kokhba rebels at Abi'or Cave near Jericho. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 73: 153-160.

  4. Kislev, M.E., Nadel, D. and Carmi, I. 1992. Epipalaeolithic (19,000 BP) cereal and fruit diet at Ohalo II, Sea of Galilee, Israel. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 73: 161-166.

  5. Kislev, M.E., Artzy, M. and Marcus, E. 1993. Import of an Aegean food plant to a Middle Bronze IIA coastal site in Israel. Levant 25: 145-154.

  6. Kislev, M.E. 1996. An olive bulk: the olive fruit as an ancient unit of capacity. In: M. Heltzer and D. Eitam (eds.). Olive Oil in Antiquity: Israel and Neighbouring Countries from Neolith to Early Arab Period. Sargon srl, Padova, pp. 249-254.

  7. Kislev, M.E. 1997. Early agriculture and paleoecology of Netiv Hagdud. In: O. Bar-Yosef and A. Gopher (eds.). An Early Neolithic Village in the Jordan Valley. Part I: The Archaeology of Netiv Hagdud. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, pp. 203-230.

  8. Kislev, M.E., Melamed, Y., Simchoni, O. and Marmorstein, M. 1997. Computerized key of grass grains of the Mediterranean basin. Lagascalia 19(2): 289-294.

  9. Goren-Inbar, N., Feibel, C.S., Verosub, K.L., Melamed, Y., Kislev, M.E., Tchernov, E. and Saragusti, I. 2000. Pleistocene milestones on the out-of-Africa corridor at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel. Science 289: 944-947.

  10. Goren-Inbar, N., Sharon, G., Melamed, Y. and Kislev, M.E. 2002. Nuts, nut cracking, and pitted stones at Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 99: 2455-2460.