Four iron age silver hoards from southern Phoenicia: From bundles to hacksilber

Tzilla Eshel, Naama Yahalom-Mack, Sariel Shalev, Ofir Tirosh, Yigal Erel, Ayelet Gilboa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron Age silver in the Levant has attracted scholarly attention regarding its function as currency. Scholars debate whether hacksilber can be interpreted as representing a pre-monetary economic system, using pre-portioned silver exchanged in standardized weights, which inspired the invention of coins. In this study, four Iron Age silver hoards from southern Phoenicia (Tell Keisan, Tel Dor, ʿEin Hofez, and ʿAkko) are examined from archaeological and analytical perspectives. The combination of a contextual analysis of the hoards, a typological study of the items in them, chemical analysis, and comparison with other Bronze and Iron Age southern Levantine hoards implies that the use of silver as currency changed throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages. In particular, contrary to common interpretations, the hoarding of silver in stamped bundles and the practice of hacking silver do not represent a single phenomenon. Rather, bundling was gradually replaced by the practice of hacking silver ingots to verify their quality. In Iron Age II, during every transaction, the hacked items were weighed using miniature silver items to balance the scales. We conclude that the “hacked silver” economic system was not based on “pre-weighing” and therefore cannot be defined as heralding the use of coins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-228
Number of pages32
JournalBulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is part of a research project supported by a grant of the Gerda-Henkel Foundation in Germany, awarded to Ayelet Gilboa and Yigal Erel (grant no. AZ 05/F/16), and by the Authority of Advanced Studies at the University of Haifa. Gilboa acknowledges the steadfast support for Tel Dor–related research by the Goldhirsh-Yellin Foundation. We would like to express our deep gratitude to Michael Saban, Zvi Greenhut, Alegre Savariego, and Lena Kuperschmidt of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who enabled us to access the hoards, and, in particular, to open and clean the Tell Keisan bundles; and to Tzvika Tzuk from the Nature and Park Authority for providing information on the newly unearthed Tel Gezer hoard. We are grateful to Eran Arie (The Israel Museum), who kindly permitted access to the Tel Dor hoard; to Michal Artzy and Ragna Stidsing of the University of Haifa, who provided access to the Tel ʿAkko hoard and unpublished excavation logbooks and photos; to Yardenna Alexandre (IAA), excavator of ʿEin Hofez, for her kind assistance regarding the ʿEin Hofez hoard and its setting; and to Ilan Sharon (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Benjamin Har-Even (IAA), and Svetlana Matskevich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) for their assistance in clarifying the context of the Tel Dor hoard. Special gratitude is due to Elisabetta Boaretto from the D-REAMS Radiocarbon Laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, for the radiocarbon dating. We deeply appreciate the assistance of Sana Shilstein (Weizmann Institute of Science), with the calibration of the XRF results, and Daniel Kaufman (University of Haifa) with the statistical analysis. We thank Miriam Lavi (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Ravit Linn (University of Haifa) for the conservation of the artifacts, Michael Eisenberg (University of Haifa) and Yael Yolovitch (IAA) for the photos, and Anat Regev-Gisis (University of Haifa) and Svetlana Matskevich for the graphics. Finally, we thank the anonymous BASOR reviewers for their careful reading of our manuscript and their insightful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Schools of Oriental Research.


  • Currency
  • Forgery
  • Hacked ingots
  • Hacksilber
  • Hoards
  • Iron Age
  • Mixing
  • Phoenicia
  • Silver
  • XRF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Archaeology


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