An Ancient Factory Discovered in Israel Produced the Roman Empire’s Favorite Sauce

In ancient Roman cuisine, garum, a nonalcoholic fermented fish sauce, was a staple of every kitchen and a necessary ingredient of countless recipes. Archaeologists recently discovered a Roman-era factory for the condiment near Ashkelon on the Israeli coast, as Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

At the 2,000-year-old site, located a mile and a quarter northwest of the city of Ashkelon, [the Israeli archaeologist] Tali Erickson-Gini’s team uncovered several installations that, when taken together, left the archaeologist with little doubt that she was looking at a rare Holy Land garum-production center, or cetaria. Though there are few examples in the eastern Mediterranean, . . . in the Iberian Peninsula, specifically Malaga, there are several installations that mirror what she has uncovered in Ashkelon. . . .

In addition to evidence of fish pools, the team uncovered giant plastered vats, jars used for storing liquid, and what appears to be a large receptacle to hold the strained goopy substance.

While fish pools have been found elsewhere in the region, there is only one other identified location in Israel that may possibly have produced the garum, said Erickson-Gini. According to what has so far been excavated, the Ashkelon site was not a major factory, and was possibly mainly for local use. . . .

There are several types of garum, and even a strictly kosher version called garum castimonarium that was guaranteed to be made only from kosher fish.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Food, Kashrut

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7