Part of the treasure from the cave on display..
(photo credit: DR. ORIT SHAMIR ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY/OHAD NIR ANA)
A new exhibition opened on Sunday at the ANA hostel in the northern Galilee Druze town of Peki’in to help showcase the treasures of a nearby burial cave dating from over 6,500 years ago. The cave is the largest one known in Israel and contains a wealth of ancient artifacts: decorated ossuaries, burial offerings, jars, stone tools and more.
The opening ceremony was held by Peki’in local council head Dr. Swaid Swaid, Antiquities Authority director Israel Hasson and Israel Youth Hostel Association (ANA) director Uri Dagol. The exhibition was established as part of a partnership between ANA and the authority to make the treasured finds public, according to a statement released by the authority.
Many of the items had previously been on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. With the new exhibition, more findings will be on display for the public, including burial jars and ossuaries. These objects reflected the burial customs of the inhabitants during the Chalcolithic period – the Copper Age, around the 4th millennium BCE – as well as the role of women during that time.
The main communities in the Chalcolithic period were found mainly in the northern Negev, in the valleys and in the Golan, and cemeteries were known mainly in the coastal plain. Until the discovery of the cave during the expansion of the Peki’in road in 1995, there was little known about settlements or cemeteries in the Galilee in general and in the Upper Galilee in particular.
According to the researchers, more than 600 people were buried in the large cave. The conclusion of the archaeologists who excavated the cave on behalf of the authority – Dr. Zvika Gal, Dr. Dinah Shalem and Howard Smithline – is that the Galilee during the Chalcolithic period was more significant than had been thought until now.
Shalem said that the cave was also unique, not only for the amount of people buried in it and the variety of ossuaries and burial offerings found, but also because of the motifs found on the offerings. Both the geometric and anthropomorphic designs were similar to those in other caves typical in the region, but also suggested a cultural exchange with more remote areas.
The existence of the cave indicates a strong wave of migration in the area, hence the integration of cultures.
In August, it was reported that DNA tests conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers on the bones of 22 people buried in the cave revealed that this was a mixture of a local population with one that migrated here from modern-day Iran and Turkey.
The study, led by Dr. Hila May and Prof. Israel Hershkovitz of the Department of Anatomy and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University, was one of the largest DNA studies ever conducted in Israel, shedding much-needed light on the origins of the Chalcolithic culture in the Levant.
The Chalcolithic period in the Levant (from 4,300-3,300 BCE) was dotted with numerous small farming communities. It was a time marked by new metal technological advances from the Neolithic period.
Within the Levant, it was also the time period during which copper rose as a crucial metal.
Many groups within the Chalcolithic period in the Levant, particularly of the Ghassulian culture in the northern Negev, practiced secondary burial. During secondary burial practice, people were not buried immediately, but were often altered before being interred.