Rare piece of jewelry uncovered in the City of David excavations
While sifting material from a Roman building in the City of David, a volunteer made a beautiful discovery: a tiny gold bead. The bead, which dates to about 1,600 years ago, was delicately crafted with dozens of tiny golden balls affixed together to create a ring shape. As stated by Eli Eskozido, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), “although it is a tiny find, it is precisely the personal, day-to-day items that manage to touch and connect us more than anything else, directly, to a certain person.”
The Roman-era building where the bead was found is located along the City of David’s Pilgrimage Road, a controversial underground tunnel excavation beneath a modern Jerusalem neighborhood that follows the path of an ancient Roman road. The building, possibly a house, was built along this road and likely belonged to a wealthy family. Other finds from the building included imported vessels and mosaic floors.
While beautiful, the tiny gold bead was likely once part of larger necklace or bracelet. The unique style of the bead, which first appeared in Mesopotamia around 2500 BCE, is rarely seen due to the complex technique that is required to create the composite shape. According to Amir Golani, an ancient jewelry expert with the IAA, “a good understanding of the materials and their properties is required, as well as control over the heat, to on the one hand, solder the tiny balls together to create a tiny ring, while also preventing overheating which may lead all the gold to melt.” A few other beads of this style have been discovered in excavations around Israel, but nearly all were made from silver instead of gold.
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