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Multidisciplinary approaches to food and foodways in the medieval Eastern Mediterranean

Sylvie Yona Waksman

Cyprus and the Levant

Between oven and Tannur

“Frankish” and “indigenous” kitchens in the Holy Land in the Crusader period

Elisabeth Yehuda


This paper deals with archaeological structures related to one specific aspect of Frankish daily life in the Holy Land during the 12th and 13th centuries: cooking and baking as part of food preparation. Observations made about forms of ovens and their size and positioning within a dwelling allow conclusions to be drawn, not only about cooking and baking methods and the amount of food that was prepared, but also about storage of processed food, meal-serving and food consumption. This contribution presents a comparative analysis of archaeological evidence for cooking and baking in indigenous and Frankish contexts. The similarities and dissimilarities in the dwellings inhabited by indigenous locals and by Frankish newcomers, and in the paraphernalia of food preparation, clearly demonstrate that cooking and baking in both a narrow and a wider sense were quite different. Frankish behavior in relation to cooking and baking, whether on an intimate familial scale or at a collective-communal level, was not only a function of family structure and the specific cultural settings, but also reflected religious attitudes and cross-cultural interactions that resulted in the adoption or rejection of different customs.

Texte intégral


1During the changeable rule of the Crusaders in the Holy Land between 1099 and 1291, times of peace and war alternated. Franks came to the Holy Land as warriors, pilgrims and settlers. They fought battles and freed, protected and worshipped the holy places of Christianity. Many of them returned to Europe. Others however stayed and settled in cities such as Jerusalem, Akko, Caesarea and Yoqne’am. But not only urban spaces were inhabited by the Franks, also the countryside, especially the hinterland of Jerusalem, saw an intensified settlement of the Latins. There they built houses and workshops, planted gardens and worked fields.

2The Frankish presence in the Holy Land, in the rural and in the urban context, was an interlude within an otherwise Arab-South Levantine environment, an “intrusion” into an Eastern Mediterranean landscape. The development of Frankish peculiarities in the Holy Land can thus not be disconnected from the indigenous environment the Franks chose to settle in, and must be seen and understood in this context. This contribution presents a comparative analysis of archaeological evidence from structures related to cooking and baking in indigenous and Frankish contexts, and investigates the information they provide concerning the relationships of these populations to food at different levels (familial, social, cultural…).

Types of Crusader period settlements

3In order to identify cooking and baking installations as “Frankish”, it is first necessary to identify Frankish settlements inhabited by Franks, with houses in which Franks dwelled, having installations used by the Latins for food preparation. The identification of settlements, houses and oven types as Frankish is accomplished by observation of layouts and construction methods.

  • 1 Excavations of such sites were conducted on a larger scale only beginning in the first half of the (...)

4The 12th and 13th century settlements and dwellings of the Franks and of the local population in the area of today’s Israel and Palestine are numerous, but in many cases it is difficult to distinguish between “genuinely Frankish” and “medieval-local”.1

  • 2 Akko: Pisan, Genoese and Venetian quarters (Dichter 1973, pp. 73‑89; Boas 1999, pp. 36‑37), Yoqne’ (...)
  • 3 Akko: Knights Hotel Compound (Syon & Tatcher 2000), Akko: Hospitaller Compound (Avissar & Stern 19 (...)
  • 4 Atlit (Johns 1947).
  • 5 Khirbet Jariyut and Khirbet Salman (Ellenblum 1998, pp. 170‑193), Khirbat al Lawza (Ellenblum et a (...)
  • 6 Ar-Ram (Pringle 2000, p. 160), Khirbet al‑Burj (Boas 1996, p. 584; Pringle 1997a, pp. 37‑38), Bait (...)
  • 7 Mirabel (Pringle 1997b).
  • 8 Mi’ilya (Ellenblum 1998, pp. 41‑53), Jifna/al‑Jib (Pringle 2000, pp. 142‑160).
  • 9 Bagatti was the first scholar to observe a fairly European appearance in the layout of Emmaus-Qube (...)

5Today a wide variety of Frankish and local Crusader period settlement forms are known: in the urban context, dwelling quarters,2 compounds belonging to knightly orders3 and castles;4 in the rural context, farmsteads,5 manor houses,6 castles7 and settlements8 such as nuclear villages and so-called linear settlements (fig. 1). Among these settlement types, of particular interest for the topic of this paper are the linear settlements, which present European layouts and construction techniques that are clearly attributable to the Frankish population.9 Moreover, linear settlements have produced an abundance of installations suitable for examination concerning cooking and baking.

Fig. 1 – Frankish street settlement: al‑Kurum (left), Emmaus-Qubeibeh (right).

Fig. 1 – Frankish street settlement: al‑Kurum (left), Emmaus-Qubeibeh (right).

6Linear settlements consist of closely packed houses aligned along a central road, organized so that neighboring houses share their longitudinal walls, while the narrow front sides face the street. Fields and garden plots are located behind the houses.

7In the area of Israel and Palestine, linear settlements were excavated and surveyed at Emmaus-Qubeibeh (Bagatti 1993), al‑Kurum (Onn & Rapuano 1994; Boas 1996), al‑Harramiya (Zellinger, unpublished) and al‑Bira (Pringle 1985), all located north of Jerusalem. Parts of an additional linear settlement were recently excavated at Atarot north of Jerusalem (Edrey et al. 2018).

Types of Frankish and local dwellings

8Defined by their geographical and social context, medieval dwellings differ remarkably from each other in layout and appearance. In their construction method and masonry some dwellings could clearly be assigned to the Franks (fig. 2). Their thick (1‑2 m) walls were built in a two-row technique. They were roofed with barrel vaults, and where the door and window openings are preserved to a sufficient height, they present construction in the European Romanesque style. The stones were worked with diagonal chiseling and occasionally show marginal drafting. In the case of castles and compounds of knightly orders, some stones have mason’s marks.

Fig. 2 – Frankish simple house, al‑Kurum.

Fig. 2 – Frankish simple house, al‑Kurum.

9Other dwellings could have been inhabited by either Franks or locals. They were built in a local style, featuring thin stone walls made of unworked or only roughly worked stones and flat roofs.

10Concerning the layout of these medieval dwellings, no typical Frankish layout could be observed. The houses were either single-roomed, two-roomed (simple dwellings) or complex houses (courtyard dwellings) with a courtyard adjoined by rooms on one or more sides (fig. 3).

Fig. 3 – Southern Mediterranean courtyard house.

Fig. 3 – Southern Mediterranean courtyard house.

Frankish and local Crusader period dwellings found in rural contexts

11The simple Frankish dwellings relevant to the purpose of this research were unearthed in the above-mentioned linear settlements.

12Complex dwellings assignable to Frankish inhabitants were found at Har Hozevim (Kletter & Boas 2002; May 2000), where a complete Frankish manor house was excavated. At Khirbet al‑Lawza (Ellenblum et al. 1996) another complex house, a farmhouse ascribed to the Franks, was surveyed and a small-scale excavation was conducted.

13Contemporary simple dwellings assignable to the local population were found in Horbat Beth Zeneta south of Akko (Getzov 2000) and in al Ka’kul north of Jerusalem (Seligman 2006).

Frankish and local Crusader period dwellings found in urban contexts

14In urban contexts simple dwellings undoubtedly assignable to the Franks were excavated and surveyed along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea in the Knights Hotel Compound in Akko (Sion & Tatcher 2000) and in the Montmusard neighborhood in Akko (Boas 1997).

15Complex houses which were erected by the Franks were surveyed in Akko’s Genoese Quarter (Dichter 1973, p. 76; Kool 1997, p. 195; Boas 2010, p. 169).

16Contemporary simple dwellings probably built by the local population were excavated and surveyed along the Mediterranean coast in Apollonia in Areas E and H (Roll 1999; Ayalon et al. 2013), Area T (unpublished DFG project) and in Jaffa’s Ganor complex (Peilstoecker & Burke 2009). Inland, simple dwellings probably inhabited by non-Franks were excavated in Yoqne’am (Area H) (Ben-Tor et al. 1996, pp. 20‑23).

17Complex dwellings used by the local population were found in Caesarea close to the eastern city wall (Boas 2010, pp. 293‑300), on the temple platform (Arnon 2008, pp. 11‑16, 26‑27, 56‑57) and at Jaffa in the Clock Tower Square (Peilstoecker 2009).

18Surprisingly, no dwellings originating from the Crusader period have been excavated in Jerusalem, the capital of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. This may be due to the extensive reuse of existing pre-Crusader dwellings by the Franks (Boas 1999, p. 30; 2001, pp. 169‑170).

Frankish oven types

19For cooking and baking in dwellings clearly defined as Frankish, a variety of oven types have been found.

Baking ovens

20In al‑Kurum (in House 2) a raised platform was excavated which probably once carried a domed (baking) oven (Onn & Rapuano 1994; Boas 1996). Another such domed (baking) oven was found in Emmaus-Qubeibeh in House 23 (Bagatti 1993). This oven was set on a raised platform measuring 1.5×1.0 m.

  • 10 As early as 1124, King Baldwin II granted the Venetians the right to build an oven in their quarte (...)

21A domed baking oven similar to that of Emmaus-Qubeibeh was found in the city of Atlit (Johns 1997, pp. 88‑89). Others are known through textual sources in Akko10 and Jerusalem (Pringle 2007, pp. 132, 168, 238) and others from excavations, for example at the Templar castle of Vaduum Yaacov (personal visit). At Abu Gosh in the Benedictine monastery complex a large domed bread oven has been noted, the diameter of which measured 2 m (Vaux 1950, p. 99, fig. 28).

Simple fireplaces

22Simple fireplaces featuring a slightly raised rectangular or quarter-circle-shaped area lined by upright fieldstones were found in a rural context at al‑Kurum Houses 4 and 10 (Onn & Rapuano 1994; Boas 1996). In both cases the fireplaces were set in a corner next to the front entrance of the house.

23In the town of Apollonia a simple fireplace similar to the one excavated in al‑Kurum was found in Area E in Room 5 of a 12th century dwelling (Roll 1999). It is composed of a quarter-circle raised area lined by upright fieldstones and located in a corner of the room.

Multi-chambered oven fireplaces (fig. 4)

Fig. 4 – Multi-chambered oven types: Apollonia Castle (above), Har Hozevim (below).

Fig. 4 – Multi-chambered oven types: Apollonia Castle (above), Har Hozevim (below).

24A closer look at more elaborate rural dwellings such as manor houses, farmhouses and castles reveals types of ovens that differ remarkably from those found in simpler rural dwellings.

25In the farmhouse excavated at Har Hozevim a tripartite oven was excavated (May 2000, p. 82). Built of stones, this oven had an elongated rectangular form with three heating chambers, each accessible via an arched opening in the front. The top of the tripartite oven was flat with no opening. The back of each heating chamber incorporated a small opening that probably served as an outlet for smoke (fig. 4 below).

26Elaborate ovens were also found in the castles of Apollonia (Roll 2000, p. 30; Yehuda 2011, p. 54), Beth Guvrin and Belvoir (personal visit) and in the monastery of Bethany (Boas 2010, p. 124). Although also built of stone and multi-chambered, these ovens differ from the one at Har Hozevim. In the case of the ovens from Apollonia and Belvoir the oven chambers were circular and vaulted. The top and the front of each vault had an opening (fig. 4 above).

Chimney fireplaces

27At this point and for the sake of completeness concerning the subject of Frankish cooking and baking and its social significance, I would like to draw the reader’s attention to an installation which is not explicitly identified as one established exclusively for food preparation: chimney fireplaces.

28In two of the Frankish linear settlements, at al‑Kurum Houses 1, 2 and 16 (Onn & Rapuano 1994; Boas 1996), Wadi Harramiyah House 4 (Zellinger, unpublished), fireplaces with chimneys were discovered (fig. 5). A platform which cautiously can be interpreted as the platform of a chimney fireplace was discovered in recently excavated Atarot. In an urban context, in one of the courtyard houses in the Genoese quarter in Akko (Boas 2010, p. 169), a chimney flue was found in the corner of one of the upper rooms.

Fig. 5 – Frankish chimney fireplace types found at al‑Kurum (above and below) and al‑Harramiya (below).

Fig. 5 – Frankish chimney fireplace types found at al‑Kurum (above and below) and al‑Harramiya (below).

29Chimney fireplaces were not primarily used for smoke-free cooking but for heating, to enjoy the benefits of a warm place without the discomfort of soot and smoke. They were quite elaborate, built in stone with chimney shafts partially integrated into the wall, resting on chimney breasts carried by corbels. The fireplace itself was lined with upright stones and often showed a floor made of stone slabs.

30The presence of chimney fireplaces in some of the rural Frankish houses contrasts strikingly with the prevailing absence of ovens of any kind, simple or sophisticated.

A local oven type – the Tannur oven

  • 11 Most of the Tannur ovens are referred to in excavation reports as Tabun ovens, a common mistake re (...)

31A common type of oven found in Crusader period dwellings is the Tannur oven11 (fig. 6 above). Although found in dwellings dating to the Crusader period, Tannur ovens could not explicitly be attributed to the Franks since Tannur ovens were the popular baking and cooking installation of the non-Frankish population during the Early Islamic, Crusader and Late Islamic periods (Dalman 1964a, pp. 74‑93; McQuitty 1993-1994; Hirschfeld 1995). The introduction of Tannur ovens is related to cooking and baking during the Islamic periods.

Fig. 6 – Tannur oven (above), Tabun oven (below).

Fig. 6 – Tannur oven (above), Tabun oven (below).
  • 12 The thin pita dough is slapped by aid of a cushion like device onto the upper inside of the Tannur (...)
  • 13 It can be assumed that the area of cooking and baking was covered by a lightweight roof in order t (...)

32A Tannur oven is a conical structure measuring not more than 1m in its lower diameter. Its walls are relatively thin and are made entirely of clay, or in rare cases of stones bound with clay. Its shape is a high stretched cone which features a round opening at the top or slightly sideward for inserting pita bread,12 or for placement of a pot or caldron upon it. Through another opening at the lower side wall fuel could be inserted. Tannur ovens were mainly used for baking bread and were traditionally located in the courtyard of a complex house, close to the wall which also featured the entrance into the roofed area (Hirschfeld 1995, p. 274).13 The reason for the outdoor location of Tannur ovens may be related to the mild Mediterranean climate and the type of fuel which was used in these ovens, dung and remains of olive oil production, which produced heavy smoke and sometimes an unpleasant odor. Another popular method to distance cooking/baking and its heavy fumes from the living area but keep these domestic activities within the dwelling complex was the erection of small huts into which the ovens were built (Dalman 1964b, pp. 58‑60; McQuitty 1993-1994, pp. 60‑69).

33In a Crusader period context, Tannur ovens were found in an urban environment in Apollonia in dwellings dating to the 12th century (Area E, in Room 3 and north of Room 5) (Ayalon et al. 2013) and to the 13th century (Area T) (Yehuda, forthcoming a). Other Tannur ovens were found in the Crusader period dwellings of Yoqne’am (Ben Tor et al.1996), Caesarea (Temple Platform) (Arnon 2008) and Jaffa (Ganor excavation) (Peilstoecker & Burke 2009). All of these Tannur ovens were located in open-air areas such as courtyards, except for the one found in Yoqne’am (Ben-Tor et al. 1996, pp. 20‑23), which was located in a small room adjoining a larger structure. In a rural Crusader period context, Tannur ovens were found in the settlements of Horbat Beth Zeneta (Getzov 2000) and Ka’kul (Seligman 2006).

34Examples of excavated Tannur ovens in rural and urban contexts of the Islamic periods are abundant. They were found at Aqaba (McQuitty 1993-1994), Neve Ur (Shalem 2002), Horbat She’eri (Sion 2006) and Horbat Illin (Greenhut 2004) (Early Muslim), Khirbat Burin (Kletter & Stern 2006) and in the manor house of Har Hozevim (Ayyubid and Mamluk), to mention but a few.


35When Frankish simple dwellings are examined, regardless of their location in rural or urban environments, the absence of ovens in most houses is striking. Of 17 dwellings excavated at al‑Kurum only two had fireplaces and only one featured an oven (for bread). Even more striking, of more than 50 dwellings excavated at Emmaus-Qubeibeh, only one building contained a baking oven. Last but not least, not a single oven was discovered in the dwellings at the Knights Hotel Compound in Akko.

36It can be assumed that some ovens in Frankish dwellings were not excavated, either because they were outside the boundary of the excavation area or they were situated on a second floor and left no trace in the archaeological record.

37So the question arises, how did the Franks cook, and what kind of meals did they prepare, if they did not have ovens?

38A closer look at sources from the Crusader period and at regulations concerning food in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem reveals that the rights for milling and baking were in the hands of the local lord or knight, either secular or, as in the case of Emmaus-Qubeibeh, ecclesiastical – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The villagers of the domain were forced to pay a fee (in loaves of bread) to mill their wheat in their lord’s mill and bake their bread in their lord’s oven (William of Tyre, I, p. 553; Prawer 1980, p. 134; Boas 1999, p. 77; 2003, p. 238). Archaeological evidence for such communal baking is rare, but in villages (Emmaus-Qubeibeh, al Kurum, Abu Gosh), towns (Atlit and Akko) and castles (Apollonia, Beth Guvrin and Vaduum Jaacov) large bread ovens which could have served the purpose of communal baking have been found. According to the size of these ovens, which varies between 1.5 and 5 m in diameter, up to 150 loaves of bread, assuming that the diameter of a bread loaf traditionally consumed in the middle European areas is between 25 and 30 cm, could have been baked simultaneously in these ovens. The preparation of the dough and of the oven for baking would have been quite elaborate processes, thus it would have been efficient to bake a high quantity of bread loaves in one baking session. The bread dough was made with sourdough, which needed to be prepared as pre-dough the night before. The final ingredients were mixed together only the next day. Each family participating in the baking was responsible for providing wood suitable as fuel (Coulton 1960, pp. 55‑58). The baking chamber of the oven was pre-heated until the temperatures reached 250 to 280 degrees. At that point the fuel was removed, the oven was cleaned, and the loaves of bread were placed inside and baked as the temperature slowly decreased (Grabowski 2007, pp. 129‑130, 134). The result was a large amount of bread, most of which would not have been consumed immediately. The remaining loaves were stored in a cool place where they could remain edible for at least several weeks.

39This tradition of bread-baking and bread consumption contrasted strongly with that of the locals during the Early Islamic period. For the latter, bread-baking was a rapid activity performed in a Tannur oven, one pita-bread at a time. Dough preparation and baking were carried out just before the bread was needed for consumption, and this was enabled by a short heating time, easily collectible and fast-burning fuel (such as branches and dung), and a quickly prepared dough which due to its thinness demanded only a short baking time.

40The lack of ovens for cooking in Crusader contexts suggests that the preparation of hot meals was, like baking, a communal matter. Historical and archaeological evidence indicates that in cities where there was an abundance of people who had no kitchen of their own, such as pilgrims, cook shops were established, serving ready-to-eat, cooked meals sold on the streets (Boas 1999, p. 25). During the 12th century the Suq al‑Attarin Street in Jerusalem was known as the Malquissinat, the Street of Evil Cooking. This name hints at the quality of medieval “fast food”, probably porridges, soups and stews made with a few simple ingredients.

41In the Knights Hotel Compound (Areas D and F) at Akko (Syon, forthcoming) no ovens were found, but large numbers of vessels used for cooking and serving food were discovered in the debris deriving from the back rooms or the second storeys of the buildings. In Area D the number of serving vessels (bowls) by far exceeded the number of vessels needed in a private household. In Area F the same could be stated for cooking pots (Yehuda, forthcoming b).

  • 14 The Early Byzantine shops at Sardis, of which three (E1, E2 and W2) were identified as restaurants (...)
  • 15 According to Stern, the large amounts of food required in the hospice of the Hospitaller Compound (...)
  • 16 Edna Stern (2012, vol. 1, p. 29) suggests that cooking pots were an indicator of domestic cooking (...)

42The large number of such vessels in both areas and the lack of a pottery kiln nearby leads to the assumption that communal cooking or food-serving could have been performed in both these areas. But where were the ovens? Since none could be found, it may be assumed that in both areas ready-to-eat food was sold but prepared at another spot.14 Perhaps the food was cooked in large caldrons in another, less crowded part of the city, brought to the cook shops and portioned out.15 Here the different predominant vessel types in Area F and Area D could point to different patterns of food-serving. In Area F, food was possibly portioned out in cooking pots and then taken home for consumption in a familial circle,16 whereas in Area D, bowls being the predominant vessels for serving food could point to consumption of food on the spot.

43Whoever has visited the popular Yaffar Bakery on Khan es-Zeit Street in Jerusalem knows that, also today, baking, serving and consumption do not necessarily occur in the same place. The baker may be seen arriving from the bake house in Beit Hanina, balancing a huge tray with freshly baked Knaffeh on his shoulder. Once the tray is set in place, warming up, portioning and serving occurs in the shop itself.

44It is difficult to imagine the same scenario of commercial food preparation and selling in villages where there was a much lower number of foreign people in need of ready-cooked meals. It is possible that cooking was carried out in a way similar to baking and milling – one oven for all! Thus just as each family brought its own loaves of bread to the baking oven, they could also have brought their stews and porridges to a communal oven for cooking, each family in turn.

45A different picture emerges upon examination of more elaborate dwelling complexes such as farmhouses, manor houses and castles. In these a kitchen area or kitchens could be clearly detected, even elaborate ones. In the case of castles or compounds belonging to knightly orders such as the Knights Hospitaller or the Knights Templar, cooking for a uniform group of people with strict rules concerning food preparation and food consumption (Bronstein 2011) would have imposed the presence of a kitchen area and its installations. It can also be stated that ovens that are similar are an architectural expression of belonging and of uniformity for all members of a specific order. This is illustrated in the Hospitaller castles of Apollonia, Beth Guvrin and Belvoir, in which the oven installations are almost identical. Due to their special construction these ovens enabled a constant supply of fuel from a room disconnected from the actual kitchen area. The cooking activities in the kitchen could thus be more efficient, because the cook(s) could concentrate only on the task of food preparation. The presence of more than one oven allowed the preparation of large quantities or of a wider variety of dishes within a relatively short time.

46Although most likely not connected to cooking or baking, the presence of chimney fireplaces in houses of Frankish dwellings may provide greater understanding of the social fabric of Crusader society in general and the status of the Frankish rural settlers in particular. In this context answering questions concerning the origins for the installation of chimneys is crucial. Two possible answers deserve consideration:

  • the chimney fireplaces in Frankish settlements represent an idea that was picked up by the Crusaders from foreign cultures as they made their way to the Holy Land;
  • the idea, the application and the social significance of the chimney fireplace were brought to the Latin Kingdom by the Crusaders from their home countries.

47Concerning the first possibility, Boas suggests that chimneys were introduced into the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem via Byzantium. He notes that in the town of Pergamon almost all excavated dwellings had at least one room equipped with a chimney fireplace (Boas 1996, pp. 585‑586). However, a closer look at the excavation report reveals that the houses with chimney fireplaces date to the 13th century (Rheidt 1990), almost 100 years later than those of the Frankish settlements at Khirbat al‑Kurum and Khirbat al‑Harramiye. A closer look at chimney fireplaces in Byzantium reveals that they are exceptional features in the archaeological record of medieval Byzantium. The few examples recorded are either later than the 12th century types found in Israel and Palestine and/or have clear Frankish origins. Except for Pergamon, chimney fireplaces were reported from Frankish Corinth (Williams & Zervos 1995, pp. 1‑60; 1996, pp. 1‑55), in the city of Geriaki (Sigalos 2004, p. 70) and in Paliochora on Kythera (Ince & Ballantyne 2007, p. 18). Elaborate Late Byzantine towers at Laskaris in Mistra possessed fireplaces which could have also featured chimneys (Sigalos 2004, p. 76).

48Thus the chronological and spatial distributions of chimney fireplaces in Byzantium are inconsistent with those of the Latin Kingdom, rendering the possibility of their introduction via Byzantium unlikely.

  • 17 The general similarity between the chimneys preserved in Pergamon and those in Houses 1 and 2 in K (...)

49A closer look at chimney fireplaces in Central Europe reveals clearly that they were not just an architectural feature but had social significance.17 Chimney fireplaces were first established around the 11th century in Central Europe, where they were exclusively installed in the palaces and manors of the ecclesiastic, secular and royal aristocracy as signs of power and luxury. Shortly after, from the 12th century onwards, chimney fireplaces could also be found in the houses of wealthy city dwellers (Buettner & Meissner 1983, p. 26; Cook 1984, p. 31; Kaspar 1985, p. 32; Quiney 1999, p. 38; Roth Kaufmann 1997, p. 473; Quiney 2003, pp. 109, 176, 180). During the 13th century, chimney fireplaces as status symbols were increasingly built with royal expenditure in offices of the royal household, as rewards for knights who performed services for the king (Dresbeck 1971, p. 24). If the idea of the chimney fireplace as an architectural feature was imported by the Crusaders from Central Europe to the Holy Land, it can be assumed that its significance as a status symbol came with it, and that houses with chimney fireplaces belonged to those who enjoyed a certain social reputation.

Conclusion: to eat out, or not to eat out, that is the question!

50During the Early Islamic period a household was an introverted architectural unit separated from its surrounding by a number of privacy measures (Krauss 1910, pp. 45‑46; Kan’an 1933, p. 66; Hirschfeld 1995, pp. 272‑274; Boas 2010, p. 24). The outer walls of a dwelling were forbidding in their appearance, with almost no windows and only one door leading into an anteroom, the crossing of which would allow access into areas of greater privacy. The courtyard as an open-air area for work and leisure was located in the center of the dwelling, surrounded by rows of rooms or walls. Baking and cooking installations were located there. Baking and cooking were at the center of the house and at the center of familial activity. The size of these ovens indicates food preparation for nuclear or extended families. Food preparation and food consumption were thus closely intertwined. Meals and bread were prepared just before they were to be consumed, at the same spot or nearby.

51The simple Frankish household presents a very different picture. It appears that cooking and food preparation were neither in the center of a dwelling nor at the center of family life. The absence of ovens in so many of the simple Frankish households could indicate that food preparation as a process did not occur at the private level and took place in the communal sphere. Cooking appears to have been a public activity in the life of the Frankish settlement.

52In the same way, certain rules concerning meal and food consumption regulated the life of the knightly orders and thus strengthened their solidarity. Cooking, milling and baking as communal activities, although imposed by the ruling lords, could have been activities that insured the cohesiveness of Frankish settlements as social units.

53Interestingly, chimney fireplaces in some of the households of the Frankish settlements support this assumption. Their presence was mainly a sign of prestige, and did not express differentiation when it came to cooking. The installation of a chimney fireplace did not introduce private cooking into that specific household; those settlers who owned a chimney fireplace would still have participated in the routines of communal milling, baking and probably cooking.

54Despite adaptation to their new environment in the Holy Land, working the soil like the indigenous people, tasting Eastern Mediterranean food and even dressing in local garments, the Frankish settlers also took considerable effort to differentiate themselves from their local environment.

55In the realm of cooking, clear distinctions set the Frankish settlers apart from their Muslim-Arab-Eastern Mediterranean surroundings. This distinction in matters of cooking can be seen as part of a larger picture, which included settlement layouts, appearance of dwellings and construction techniques, all of which differed considerably from the local environment. This separation was probably an expression of exclusiveness and superiority that the Frankish settlers felt, not only towards their indigenous neighbors but also towards the spoiled, urban Frankish population. Frankish settlers in the countryside would certainly have understood themselves as people providing valuable services for the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.


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1 Excavations of such sites were conducted on a larger scale only beginning in the first half of the 20th century (Montfort: Dean 1927; Atlit: Johns 1947; Jaffa: Kaplan 1959; Bethany: Saller 1957; Emmaus Qubeibeh: Bagatti 1993).

2 Akko: Pisan, Genoese and Venetian quarters (Dichter 1973, pp. 73‑89; Boas 1999, pp. 36‑37), Yoqne’am (Ben-Tor et al. 1996), Caesarea (Arnon 2008).

3 Akko: Knights Hotel Compound (Syon & Tatcher 2000), Akko: Hospitaller Compound (Avissar & Stern 1994; 1998; Stern 1999; 2001; 2002).

4 Atlit (Johns 1947).

5 Khirbet Jariyut and Khirbet Salman (Ellenblum 1998, pp. 170‑193), Khirbat al Lawza (Ellenblum et al. 1996).

6 Ar-Ram (Pringle 2000, p. 160), Khirbet al‑Burj (Boas 1996, p. 584; Pringle 1997a, pp. 37‑38), Bait Itab (Pringle 1997a, pp. 26‑27).

7 Mirabel (Pringle 1997b).

8 Mi’ilya (Ellenblum 1998, pp. 41‑53), Jifna/al‑Jib (Pringle 2000, pp. 142‑160).

9 Bagatti was the first scholar to observe a fairly European appearance in the layout of Emmaus-Qubeibeh, which led him to the conclusion that this village and others like it were settled by the Franks (Bagatti 1993, p. 88). This observation has since been widely accepted by scholars across the field, often referring to these linear settlements as “Frankish street villages” (Pringle 1985, pp. 149‑151; Ellenblum 1998, pp. 88‑90; Boas 1999, pp. 6‑68; 2003).

10 As early as 1124, King Baldwin II granted the Venetians the right to build an oven in their quarter in Akko (William of Tyre, I, p. 554; Prawer 1980, pp. 218‑249; 1993, p. 218).

11 Most of the Tannur ovens are referred to in excavation reports as Tabun ovens, a common mistake resulting from the mixing of terms (Ebeling & Rogel 2015). A true Tabun oven is a low domed structure made entirely of clay with a single opening on top (fig. 6, below). According to some researchers it was heated only from the outside by piling dung and other fuel on top of the oven (Dalman 1964a, pp. 74‑87). According to other scholars it was heated from the inside by a fire lit on the floor of the Tabun (McQuitty 1993-1994, p. 56). Tabun ovens are also usually located in the open-air areas of a dwelling.

12 The thin pita dough is slapped by aid of a cushion like device onto the upper inside of the Tannur oven and remains there for roughly a minute till the dough is thoroughly baked. The ready-to-eat pita is then removed by the aid of a pincer-like tool.

13 It can be assumed that the area of cooking and baking was covered by a lightweight roof in order to enable cooking and baking during bad weather.

14 The Early Byzantine shops at Sardis, of which three (E1, E2 and W2) were identified as restaurants, did not feature ovens or hearths (Harris 2004, p. 92).

15 According to Stern, the large amounts of food required in the hospice of the Hospitaller Compound and the tower of the Courthouse site would have been cooked in metal caldrons (Stern 2012, vol. 1, p. 29).

16 Edna Stern (2012, vol. 1, p. 29) suggests that cooking pots were an indicator of domestic cooking rather than commercialized food preparation.

17 The general similarity between the chimneys preserved in Pergamon and those in Houses 1 and 2 in Khirbat al‑Kurum and Khirbat al‑Harramiye easily leads to the assumption of a Byzantine antetype, but very similar 12th century chimney fireplaces are reported from Le Puy-en-Velay, the White Tower in London and Castle Hedingham.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Frankish street settlement: al‑Kurum (left), Emmaus-Qubeibeh (right).
Fichier image/jpeg, 535k
Titre Fig. 2 – Frankish simple house, al‑Kurum.
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Titre Fig. 3 – Southern Mediterranean courtyard house.
Fichier image/jpeg, 138k
Titre Fig. 4 – Multi-chambered oven types: Apollonia Castle (above), Har Hozevim (below).
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Titre Fig. 5 – Frankish chimney fireplace types found at al‑Kurum (above and below) and al‑Harramiya (below).
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,3M
Titre Fig. 6 – Tannur oven (above), Tabun oven (below).
Fichier image/jpeg, 2,0M


Department of Israel Studies, University of Haifa, Abba Khoushy Ave. 199, Haifa, 3498838, Israel,

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