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

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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