Abel Beth Maacah Excavations Uncover Silver Hoard at an Ancient Crossroads

3,200-year-old silver earrings and ingots uncovered in northern Israel

Silver earrings and ingots from Abel Beth Maacah. Photo: Gabi Laron, Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology, via the Abel Beth Maacah Facebook page.

The city of Abel Beth Maacah was located at an important juncture between several ancient Near Eastern cultures. During the Bronze Age, it was a threshold between the Levant and the major empires of Syria and Mesopotamia. In the Iron Age, the Biblical city of Abel Beth Maacah was a crossroads between Israel, Phoenicia and Syria, and it may have served as the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Maacah (Joshua 12:5; 2 Samuel 10:8).

The site features an extensive Bronze Age occupation centuries before it became a prominent Hebrew Bible-era city. In 2 Samuel 20:14-22, Sheba son of Bichri took refuge in the city after calling for revolt against King David. Joab’s negotiations with a “wise woman” of the city resulted in Sheba’s beheading. Abel Beth Maacah (referred to as Abel Maim in 2 Chronicles 16:4) was later conquered by Ben Hadad of Aram-Damascus (1 Kings 15:20) and by Tiglath-pileser III in 733/32 BCE (2 Kings 15:29).*

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Despite its early identification as Abel Beth Maacah in the 19th century, Tell Abil el-Qameḥ was never excavated until 2013. Yigael Yadin planned to dig the tell in the 1950s, but opted to investigate Hazor instead. Last summer’s inaugural excavations at Israel’s northernmost site not only uncovered Bronze and Iron Age architectural remains, but also a silver hoard, including five hoop earrings and hacksilber ingots—valued pieces of silver in the pre-coinage era. The precious metal was wrapped in fibrous material inside a small 13th-century B.C.E. jug, though the silver may have been shaped at a later date–the early Iron Age–based on comparisons with other hacksilber finds in the region. While the establishment of an exact chronology at the site will require more than a single excavation season, the 2013 excavation material will surely shed light on the Bronze Age, the period of the Bronze Age collapse and the early Iron Age from the second millennium B.C.E. into the first millennium–an understudied era in what is now northern Israel.

Excavations at Abel Beth Maacah are conducted by Hebrew University professor Nava Panitz-Cohen and Azusa Pacific University professor Robert Mullins in conjunction with Cornell University professors Lauren Monroe and Christopher Monroe. The 2013 excavations have already been published by Robert Mullins, Nava Panitz-Cohen and Ruhama Bonfil in the journal Strata. Additional photos of the finds are available on the project’s Facebook page.



* Text referencing Abel Beth Maacah in the Hebrew Bible has been adapted from text on the BAS dig page submitted by the excavation directors. Click here to learn more and get involved with the excavations at Abel Beth Maacah.


More on Abel Beth Maacah in Bible History Daily:

Abel Beth Maacah in the Bible

Silver Hoard from Abel Beth Maacah Illuminates Biblical Border Town

Gender in Archaeology at Abel Beth Maacah

Were There Arameans at Abel Beth Maacah?


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  • Christopher says

    How do we know that some of these are not nose rings? Just wondering.

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