Metals in Ancient Israel: Archaeological Interperetation of Chemical Analysis

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Over a thousand metal finds are now known from Chalcolithic and Early Bronze habitation sites, burial caves, and hoards in Israel and Jordan. To answer the question as to how these artifacts were made, more than 200 objects were sampled for metallographic analysis and for chemical analysis by electron‐probe X‐ray microanalysis and by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. In the Chalcolithic period (4th millennium BC), within a confined zone of southern Israel and Jordan, three entirely different groups of metal objects were found together. Various materials (Cu‐As‐Sb; Au; Cu) from totally separate sources were used in diverse production methods to produce specific classes of objects, of a specific shape and color, totally different from one another. In contrast, the components of Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) metal production indicate a fundamental change in the structure and level of craft specialization. This change may be recognized mainly by the unity of the repertory of objects and the use of the same source‐metal (Ag; Au; Cu) for a wider range of products, as well as by the total technological and geographical separation between extraction and production. The transformation from proto‐urban to urban society documents an important stage of social, economic, and political development in Early Bronze Age Israel and Jordan. Many explanations have been offered for this transformation, most of them based on external intervention or stimulus. This paper adds to the existing arguments for the beginning of urbanization, the missing local socioeconomic factor, based on changes in social complexity as reflected in the first two thousand years of metallurgy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-116
Number of pages8
JournalIsrael Journal of Chemistry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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