Richard Nowitz

Cotes from the underground. More than 50,000 pigeons roosted in holes in the walls of 85 Maresha caves. To begin a brood, a few dozen birds were sealed inside a cave until they laid eggs in the small loaf-shaped nests scooped out of the walls. The breeders then opened the caves and allowed the birds to fly free, knowing they would return to their nests. The lower portions of the walls were left smooth to prevent predators from climbing into the nests. The meal-sized birds, which made a convenient dish in the days before refrigeration, were also used in religious rituals as sacrifices; their dung served as fertilizer.