Tel Megiddo (Israel): Unique gold earring found / Un trésor exhumé
Unique gold earring found in intriguing collection of ancient jewelry in Israel
Tel Aviv University
This is the gold earring found at Tel Megiddo. Credit: American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Researchers from Tel Aviv University have recently discovered a collection of gold and silver jewelry, dated from around 1100 B.C., hidden in a vessel at the archaeological site of Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel. One piece — a gold earring decorated with molded ibexes, or wild goats — is "without parallel," they believe.
According to Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures, the vessel was found in 2010, but remained uncleaned while awaiting a molecular analysis of its content. When they were finally able to wash out the dirt, pieces of jewelry, including a ring, earrings, and beads, flooded from the vessel. Prof. Finkelstein is the co-director of the excavation of Tel Megiddo along with Professor Emeritus David Ussishkin of Tel Aviv University and Associate Director Prof. Eric Cline of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The researchers believe that the collection, which was discovered in the remains of a private home in the northern part of Megiddo, belongs to a time period called "Iron I," and that at least some of the pieces could have originated in nearby Egypt. Some of the materials and designs featured in the jewelry, including beads made from carnelian stone, are consistent with Egyptian designs from the same period, notes Ph.D. candidate Eran Arie, who supervises the area where the hoard was found.
A treasure trove with mysterious origins
When the researchers removed the ceramic jug from the excavation site, they had no idea there was jewelry hidden within. The jewelry was well preserved and wrapped in textiles, but the circumstances surrounding it are mysterious. According to Prof. Finkelstein, it is likely that the jug was not the jewelry's normal storage place. "It's clear that people tried to hide the collection, and for some reason they were unable to come back to pick it up." The owners could have perished or been forced to flee, he says. Prof. Ussishkin believes that it was the jewelry collection of the Canaanite woman who lived in the house.
The assortment of jewelry is also out of the ordinary, notes Arie. Though the collection includes a number of lunette (moon-shaped) earrings of common Canaanite origin, researchers found an abundance of gold items in the collection and a number of beads made from carnelian, which was frequently used in the making of Egyptian jewellery in the same period. This points to a strong Egyptian connection, whether in influence or origin. Such a connection would not be surprising, according to Prof. Cline, who stated that interactions between Egypt and Megiddo are known to have taken place during both the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
The most notable piece, the researchers agree, is a gold earring with a pattern of molded wild goats. "For unique items, we work to find parallels to help place the items in their correct cultural and chronological settings, but in this case we still haven't found anything," say the researchers.
Adding dimension to a multi-layer dig
It's another fascinating find from a unique archaeological site. Tel Megiddo was an important Canaanite city-state until the early 10thcentury B.C.E. and a pivotal center of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 9th and 8th centuries B.C.E. It is a multi-layered site with various time periods clearly differentiated, and in this time period there are 10 to 11 strata well-dated through radiocarbon analysis. "Such a sequence of radiocarbon dates doesn't exist anywhere else in the region," says Prof. Finkelstein.
The layer in which the jewelry was found has already been dated to the 11th century B.C., just after the end of Egyptian rule in the 12th century B.C., Arie says. Either the jewelry was left behind in the Egyptian withdrawal or the people who owned the jewelry were influenced by Egyptian culture.
The researchers hope that analysis of both the textiles in which the jewelry was wrapped and the jewelry itself will tell them more about the origins of the collection. If the gold is pure rather than a mixture of gold and silver, for example, the metal most likely will have come from Egypt itself, a region that was poor in silver resources but rich in gold.
Un trésor exhumé en Israël
Quelques-uns des bijoux mis au jour en Israël. © Jack Guez / AFP
Des archéologues ont découvert dans un vase enfoui à Tel Megiddo, dans le nord d'Israël, un trésor : une magnifique collection de bijoux cananéens vieux de trois mille ans, comprenant des centaines de perles, des boucles d'oreille en or et une bague à sceau. Les bijoux étaient enveloppés dans du tissu et rangés dans un pot en céramique mis au jour lors de fouilles sur le site de la vallée de Jezreel, entre Jérusalem et Haïfa. Le trésor est composé de huit boucles d'oreille en forme de lune, un millier de perles en or, argent et cornaline, et une boucle d'oreille ornée d'une série de figurines de chèvres sauvages qui est unique selon les chercheurs.
Le vase en argile a été exhumé à l'été 2010, mais il a subi six mois d'analyse moléculaire avant d'être nettoyé et examiné par des experts, indique le département d'archéologie de l'université de Tel-Aviv dans un communiqué. "Quand ils ont finalement pu le nettoyer, les bijoux se sont répandus hors du pot", a raconté le professeur Israel Finkelstein, co-directeur des fouilles à Tel Megiddo. Selon les chercheurs, ces pièces datent de l'âge de fer I, qui remonte à 1 100 avant notre ère, et certaines pourraient provenir de l'Égypte voisine.
Les archéologues pensent que cette collection pourraitavoir appartenu à une femme cananéenne ayant habité dans la maison où elle a été découverte. Selon eux, la boucle en or aux motifs de chèvre est "sans parallèle" dans les contextes égyptien et cananéen. "Pour les objets uniques, nous cherchons à établir des parallèles pour essayer de les situer dans le bon contexte culturel et chronologique, mais dans ce cas nous n'avons toujours rien trouvé", ont-ils indiqué. Tel Megiddo, l'un des sites archéologiques majeurs d'Israël, était une cité-État cananéenne jusqu'au début du Xe siècle avant J.-C., et un centre d'échange important du Royaume septentrional d'Israël aux IXe et VIIIe siècles avant J.-C..