Over 2000 years later: Ancient gold earring discovered in City of David

The earring features a horned animal dating back to the early Hellenistic period.

August 8, 2018 14:40
2 minute read.

Uncovering an earring at the City of David, August 8, 2018 (Credit: Gil Mezuman, City of David)

Uncovering an earring at the City of David, August 8, 2018 (Credit: Gil Mezuman, City of David)


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A Hellenistic-era golden earring that features the image of a horned animal was discovered in the Givati parking lot of the City of David National Park that encircles the Old City walls, the City of David announced Wednesday.

The discovery was made during archaeological digs carried out by the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.

According to the directors of the excavation, Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Antiquities Authority, “The jewelry was found inside a building that was unearthed during the excavation, dating to the early Hellenistic period – a fascinating era about which we know very little when it comes to Jerusalem. During the course of over a century of archaeological digs in the city, many small discoveries have been made from this period – mainly consisting of pottery fragments and a few coins – but hardly any remains of buildings that could be accurately dated to this period.”

The hoop earring bears the head of a horned animal with large eyes and a mouth.

 Excavations at the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David (Credit: Kobi Harati/City of David)

“It is unclear whether the gold earring was worn by a man or a woman, nor do we know their cultural or religious identity. But we can say for certain that whoever wore this earring definitely belonged to Jerusalem’s upper class,” the researchers said. “This can be determined by the proximity to the Temple Mount and the Temple, which was functional at the time, as well as the quality of the gold piece of jewelry.”

Close to the place where the earring was found, excavators also found a gold bead with intricate embroidered ornamentation resembling a thin rope pattern, dividing the beads into two parts with six spirals on each side.

Ariel Polokoff and Dr. Adi Erlich, from the University of Haifa’s Department of Archaeology, examined the earring and bead and said the jewelry was crafted using a technique called filigree, in which threads and tiny metal beads are used to create delicate and complex patterns.

According to them, this type of earring first appeared in Greece during the early Hellenistic period. Similar earrings have been found across the Mediterranean basin, especially in Greece, but are extremely rare in Israel.

According to Prof. Gadot, only a few earrings of this kind have thus far been found in Israel, many of them in the coastal region, with one slightly different specimen discovered inside a tomb in the Hinnom Valley. This is the first time, however, that an earring of this type has been found in Jerusalem in archaeological ruins from that era.

Researchers believe the latest findings “open a window to what Jerusalem was like during the early Hellenistic period. It seems as though, at the time, the city did not reach farther than the top of the hill in the City of David but then spread slightly to the west into the Tyropoeon Valley. We also learned from this excavation that the residents of this area were not peasants who settled in empty areas on the periphery of the central area, but rather the opposite – they were well-off people. The discovery of familiar Hellenistic pieces of jewelry can teach us about how Hellenistic influences reached Jerusalem during this time.”

The jewelry will be on public display at the City of David’s 17th Annual Archaeological Conference scheduled for September 8.

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