Ancient Canaanite Gold and Silver Jewelry Hoard Reveals Past Secrets


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Crescent earrings, a ring, and amber coloured beads from the Canaanite hoard: Image © The Megiddo Expedition

Stunning gold and silver jewelry, including a ring, earrings, and beads, have been unearthed by Israeli archaeologists as part of an ancient treasure trove at Tel Megiddo.

The hoard is thought to have been concealed by an Iron Age Canaanite woman in the 11th century B.C., about three thousand years ago.

 Egyptian Gold Jewelry

The style of the jewelry is out of the ordinary, because, although it includes a number of the characteristic lunette earrings common in Canaanite culture, there is also an abundance of gold items.

Together with beads carved from carnelian, these have been identified as possibly Egyptian in origin.

Unique gold earring decorated with ibex: Image © The Megiddo Expedition

“The style of jewelry Bronze and Iron Ages in the Levant is quite stable. For hundreds of years ancient goldsmiths manufactured earrings of the same style,” expert Dr. Eran Arie stated in an interview with Decoded Science.

“The hoard is dated to the period just after the withdrawal of the Egyptian Empire from Canaan (ca. 1,130 BCE),  we know that the origin of the gold in Canaan is from Egypt.”

Archaeologists at the Tel Megiddo dig, a long-term project run by Tel Aviv University, with a consortium of American universities, made the discovery in 2010, but did not know what treasure they had. Among the finds excavated was a pottery jar or jug enclosed in a bowl, which were put aside to await molecular analysis at the Weizmann Institute.

Treasure Hidden in a Pottery Jug

Dr. Arie, pottery expert and supervisor of the excavations in area H of Tel Megiddo, where the pot was found, told Decoded Science that,every complete vessel that still contains its original content is taken without washing or cleaning in other methods to the Weizmann Institute for residue analysis. In this analysis Dr. Dvora Namdar tries to identify the materials that were absorbed into the walls of a pottery vessel.

Gold earring found at Tel Megiddo Image © The Megiddo Expedition

The results that Dr. Namdar achieved in other analyses were, for example, honey, oil, cinnamon etc. In the first analysis undertaken by Dr. Namdar (from a sherd close to the rim of the jug) no answer was given.”

After the inconclusive tests, washing was selected as the next process, but what washed out of the jar was not the hoped-for residue from brewing. Instead, it was a hoard of gold and silver jewelry, including over a thousand small beads in gold, silver and carnelian which had been stored wrapped in scraps of cloth. The cache includes nine earrings, one of them basket-shaped and bearing a large bird, perhaps an eagle or ostrich, and a ring seal.

Pottery beer-jug concealed jewelry hoard Image © The Megiddo Expedition

Identifying Pottery Usage

Pottery carries a wide range of information useful to anthropologists. It indicates how people lived their lives at specific points in the past timeline.

Dr. Arie explained to Decoded Science how, “the jug that contained the hoard is of a type called “beer-jug”. This type is characterized by one handle, a strainer and a spout. The handle of the jug of the hoard didn’t survive, but it was most probably a basket handle that was attached to its rim (that also didn’t survive).

No other “beer-jugs” were found in the house where the hoard was found. But five other complete vessels of this type were found in a later stratum in the same area (from Level H-9, dated some 100 years after H-11 where the hoard originated). It is called “beer-jug”, because it was always thought to be part of the beer industry, though this assumption was never proved to be right. And this is the reason that the jug under discussion was given to residue analysis in the first place.”

Scientific Pottery Analysis

Besides residue analysis, pottery can be subjected to many tests and other detailed comparisons. Archaeologists have compared the pot with others found in the Jezreel Valley around Tel Megiddo, and believe that this could be a locally-made vessel. Petrographic analysis will be made to try to determine this in a process that can reveal whether the pot is made with local materials, or imported.


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