Babylonian Talmud

“recycling…is the likely explanation for the relative scarcity of metal finds at major urban centres at opposite ends of the Sasanian empire…”

It should be remembered that recycling is not a modern Western concept, but is deeply rooted in human behaviour and economic practice and is the likely explanation for the relative scarcity of metal finds at major urban centres at opposite ends of the Sasanian empire such as Veh Ardashir and Merv (Simpson 2008: 70). Compositional analyses of glass excavated at Veh Ardashir suggest that some glass was recycled (Mirti et al., 2008; 2009). Moreover, these analyses also indicate varying amounts of copper, lead and tin trace elements, the likely source of which is recycled scrap bronze and the same explanation has been given for similar traces detected in Sasanian glazes from the same site (Mirti et al., 2008: 442; Pace et al., 2008). The purchase of scrap metal recurs as cases in Avodah Zarah 71b and Bechorot 13b whereby it was sold by non-Jews and found to contain an idol (Elman this volume; cf. also Bava Metzia 73a), and another passage in Bava Metzia 23b is concerned with the weight and ownership of silver and copper vessels and fragments of lead which had been discovered. The recycling of metal is also inherent in a statement in the Mishna Kelim which compares it with the recycling of glass: ‘Why did the Rabbis impose purity upon glassware? …Since it is manufactured from sand, the Rabbis declared it the same as earthenware…since they can be repaired when broken, they were considered as metal utensils’ (Levene & Rothenberg 2007: 137).

St. John Simpson, “The Land behind Ctesiphon: The Archaeology of Babylonia during the Period of the Babylonian Talmud”, in The Archaeology and Material Culture of the Babylonian Talmud, ed. Markham J. Geller (Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2015), 27.