The giraffe, rhinoceros and bison, believed by some to be among the kosher species listed in the Bible, are likely not those animals, a study by Israeli archaeozoologists has concluded.
The study, which examined zoological findings at 133 sites dating back to the biblical period, is based on the hypothesis that animals described in the Bible existed at the time and place of its writing, the University of Haifa said in an e-mailed statement today.
According to Deuteronomy 14, there are 10 species permitted for consumption: “These are the beasts which ye may eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat; the ayal, the zvi, the yakhmur, and the aqqo, the dishon, the teo and the zemer.” Until now, the basis for identification of the species has been for the most part based on linguistic and cultural studies.
“The first three species have been easily identified, but the rest have been disputed over the years,” the statement said.
The researchers, Professor Guy Bar-Oz and Ram Buchnik of the University of Haifa and Professor Zohar Amar of Bar-Ilan University, examined the remains of various mammals and their prevalence at biblical sites that have been exposed in archaeological surveys.
The findings enabled the researchers to compare the customary identifications for the species and establish identifications based on archaeological findings, the statement said. No giraffe, rhinoceros, or bison remains were found at the sites examined, it said.
Based on the animal remains that were examined, the zvi mentioned in Deuteronomy was likely a gazelle, the ayal a type of deer, and the yahkmur a kind of antelope that is now extinct in Israel but is still found in eastern Africa, it said. The aqqo was identified as an ibex, the statement said.
The biblical dishon, which has been identified by some as the rhinoceros, is most likely an Arabian oryx, the researchers found. The teo, identified by some as the bison, is more likely a buffalo, according to the study. And the zemer, which has been identified by some as the giraffe, is more likely a member of the ibex family, the study concluded.