Deadly pandemic devastated int'l trade in ancient Israel 1,500 years ago: research

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JERUSALEM, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Israeli archaeologists have found that a global plague fatally damaged the economy in ancient Israel about 1,500 years ago, the Bar Ilan University (BIU) reported Tuesday.

A new study by three Israeli universities and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), published in the journal PNAS, showed evidence for the existence and decline of an international commercial vine trade in the southern Negev desert during the Byzantine period, the BIU said.

The researchers examined almost 10,000 seeds of vines, wheat and barley taken from ancient garbage dumps unearthed in the Negev.

The vine seeds showed that the residents in the area grew grapes for wine export.

Also, a significant increase in the amount of vine seeds was found between the 4th and mid-6th centuries AD, and then a sudden significant decrease was detected.

The researchers detected a rise and a decline in the use of "Gaza Jars," suitable for transport on the camels to the Gaza port, matching the change in the amount of the vine seeds examined.

This showed that the commercial vine branch of the Negev was linked to Mediterranean trade, with unprecedented economic prosperity, but also greater vulnerability from unusual events.

According to the team, the trade was severely affected by the Plague of Justinian which killed a significant part of the population.

Also, the eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 535 AD, which covered the atmosphere with dust and caused a global cooling, also had a severe impact on the trade by causing destructive heavy rains in ancient Israel.

"It seems that the agricultural settlements in the Negev suffered such a strong hit that it did not recover until the modern period," the researchers concluded. Enditem

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