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Study Identifies Foods Enjoyed by Africa’s Early Muslims

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Ethiopia Cattle BonesEXETER, ENGLAND—Archaeologists led by Timothy Insoll of the University of Exeter suggest residents of the sites of Harlaa, Harar, and Ganda Harlaa in eastern Ethiopia began to eat a halal diet some 400 years before major mosques and burial sites were established in the region, according to a statement released by the University of Exeter. Insoll explained, however, that these early followers of Islam may have built smaller mosques that have not yet been found. The researchers examined some 50,000 animal bones dating back as early as the eighth or ninth centuries A.D. and found evidence of halal butchery techniques thought to have been introduced by traveling Muslim traders. The residents may have adopted religious practices pragmatically, Insoll said, because the remains of pigs, which are forbidden in a Muslim diet, were identified at Harlaa and Ganda Harlaa, although the animals may have been eaten by visitors or non-Muslim residents. No pig remains were found at Harar, which was a city known for Muslim scholarship and pilgrimage, he added. Butchered bones of warthog, bushpig, aardvark, porcupine, hare, gennet, mongoose, and leopard were also recovered. In addition, residents of Harlaa dined on dried, salted marine fish imported from the Red Sea region. To read about a fourth-century A.D. Christian basilica uncovered in northern Ethiopia, go to "Early Adopters."

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