Archeologists at Megiddo unearth valuable jewels

Trove of gold items, 1000s of beads, points to Egyptian influence, may be one of the most valuable discoveries from the Biblical period.

May 21, 2012 21:14
2 minute read.
Gold ring bearing an ostrich figure

Gold ring bearing an ostrich figure 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Tel Aviv University)


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Archeologists working in the North have discovered a three-millennia- old jewelry trove they say may be one of the most valuable ever discovered from the biblical period.

Experts from Tel Aviv University uncovered the hoard at Tel Megiddo, a man-made hill near Afula, inhabited since the eighth millennium BCE.

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The newly discovered jewels date to the dawn of the Iron Age, when a Canaanite city occupied the site just before it was subsumed into the Kingdom of Israel.

The dig, in progress for nearly two decades, is co-directed by Tel Aviv University’s David Ussishkin and Israel Finkelstein, with George Washington University’s Eric H. Cline of George as associate director.

The clay vessel in which the jewels were found was excavated in 2010. In July the vessel was emptied, and experts were stunned to find what they described as some of the most valuable jewels ever unearthed from the biblical period. A Tel Aviv University spokesman said the find was announced only this week because it took the experts months to analyze and date the jewels.

The Megiddo cache is notable for its abundance of gold jewels, including nine large earrings and a ring seal. It also includes more than a thousand small beads of gold, silver and carnelian – a semiprecious stone of orange-to-amber hue. All of the artifacts are in good condition.

One of the collection’s most remarkable items is a gold basket- shaped earring bearing the figure of a bird, possibly an ostrich. Experts believe one of the items may be the first of its kind ever discovered in Israel, and that its use of gold points to possible Egyptian influence.

Megiddo, the Armageddon of Christian Scripture, was for centuries a major trading post on the Egypt-Assyria trade route.

So far 25 Iron Age jewelry hoards have been uncovered in Israel, with most of them containing only silver artifacts.

“The hoard includes a lot of gold items, which have origins in Egypt,” said Eran Arie, a Tel Aviv University archeologist who was supervising the dig at the time of the jewels’ discovery.

“The moment the Egyptians leave Canaan, gold begins to disappear,” Arie told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s possible that at this stage silver is already being used as payment, and not just raw material.”

The items are now undergoing intensive analyses at Tel Aviv University, the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Israel Museum. A date for their presentation to the public has yet to be set.

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