“It was one of those rare moments that every archaeologist dreams about,” write Abel Beth Maacah dig staff Nava Panitz-Cohen, Robert Mullins and Naama Yahalom-Mack and conservator Miriam Lavi in their Archaeological Views column “A Silver Lining at Abel Beth Maacah” in the July/August 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. In the column, the authors describe the excitement around the discovery of a Late Bronze Age silver hoard, one of the earliest ever found in Canaan.
Tell Abil el-Qameh, identified as the Biblical town Abel Beth Maacah (2 Samuel 20: 14ff; 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29), is a site in northern Israel situated at the border between the ancient polities of Israel, Aram and Phoenicia. Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah have been conducted since 2013 under the direction of Robert Mullins and Nava Panitz-Cohen. That inaugural season proved to be very fruitful.Found inside a small, mostly complete ceramic jug dating to the 13th century B.C.E. was an earth-packed silver cache that had been fused together by corrosion. Working at the Conservation Lab of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, coauthor Miriam Lavi used a diluted acid solution to carefully separate and reconstruct the silver pieces. The hoard, as it turned out, comprised 12 silver pieces, including earrings, an ingot in the shape of the continent of Africa and a fragment of hack-silber.
“The last two items were especially intriguing,” the BAR authors explain, “as they potentially represent two important aspects of silver hoards in antiquity: the manufacture of silver items from ingots made by pouring molten silver onto a flat surface and then cutting the silver into pieces, so it could be used as a means of payment in the pre-coinage economy that existed in Canaan at that time.”
The hoard raises many important questions about the people of Abel Beth Maacah and their technological capabilities and trade relations. That the jug containing the silver hoard was uncovered sitting on a floor against a wall with no evidence of violent disturbance suggests that the hoard was deposited by choice and not in an emergency situation. But why? And from where did the silver originate? Who were the metalworkers?
These are some of the questions asked by the authors. Some answers emerged through chemical and lead isotope analyses conducted by Abel Beth Maacah archaeometallurgist Naama Yahalom-Mack of the Institute of Earth Sciences of the Hebrew University. There is, however, still much more to be learned from the silver hoard.
To learn more about the silver hoard from Abel Beth Maacah and its significance, read the full Archaeological Views column “A Silver Lining at Abel Beth Maacah” by Nava Panitz-Cohen, Robert Mullins, Naama Yahalom-Mack and Miriam Lavi as it appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
BAS Library Members: Read the full Archaeological Views column “A Silver Lining at Abel Beth Maacah” by Nava Panitz-Cohen, Robert Mullins, Naama Yahalom-Mack and Miriam Lavi in the July/August 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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