The earliest silver currency hoards in the Southern Levant: Metal trade in the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The earliest use of silver as a means of payment in the Levant is generally overlooked, and hoarded silver for use as currency is often considered an Iron Age phenomenon. Based on context, typology, and chemical and Pb-isotopic analyses of silver from Megiddo, Gezer and Shiloh, we show, for the first time, that the earliest material evidence for the use of silver as a means of exchange and value in the Southern Levant dates to the MB III (∼1700/1650–1600/1550 BCE). Further developments are gleaned from the analysis of silver hoards from Tell el-‘Ajjul, a site on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which continued to thrive shortly later (MB/LB–LB I; ∼1600/1550−1400 BCE), while many others sites in the Levant were destroyed or abandoned. Lead isotope analysis (LIA) of silver from these hoards reveals a change in the ore sources of silver, from the MB III, in which silver probably originated from Anatolia, to a different source in the Anatolian-Aegean-Carpathian sphere during the MB/LB–LB I. Comparing the results from Tell el-‘Ajjul with silver from the contemporaneous Royal Shaft Graves in Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese, we suggest that silver in both assemblages likely originated from the same ores, possibly through Cypriot mediation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105705
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume149
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Zvi Greenhut, Michael Saban, Alegre Savariego and Eli Yannai from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Nurith Goshen from the Israel Museum, Fauzi Ibrahim from the Rockefeller Museum, Tzvika Tzuk from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Melissa Cradic and Israel Finkelstein and the Megiddo Expedition for enabling the sampling and photography of the silver items. We are thankful to Rachael Sparks from United College London for sharing with us her knowledge on various subjects. Many thanks to Svetlana Matskevich of the Hebrew University for skillfully producing the graphics. We deeply thank Adi Ticher, Mahdi Agbaria and Renana Oz-Rokach for careful and dedicated work in the laboratory. This research was supported by the Gerda-Henkel Foundation in Germany (Grant AZ 05/F/16; awarded to A.G. and Y.E.), and by PhD scholarships awarded to T.E. by the University of Haifa and the Nathan Rotenstreich foundation. Finally, we thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their contributing comments.

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Zvi Greenhut, Michael Saban, Alegre Savariego and Eli Yannai from the Israel Antiquities Authority, Nurith Goshen from the Israel Museum, Fauzi Ibrahim from the Rockefeller Museum, Tzvika Tzuk from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Melissa Cradic and Israel Finkelstein and the Megiddo Expedition for enabling the sampling and photography of the silver items. We are thankful to Rachael Sparks from United College London for sharing with us her knowledge on various subjects. Many thanks to Svetlana Matskevich of the Hebrew University for skillfully producing the graphics. We deeply thank Adi Ticher, Mahdi Agbaria and Renana Oz-Rokach for careful and dedicated work in the laboratory. This research was supported by the Gerda-Henkel Foundation in Germany (Grant AZ 05/F/16; awarded to A.G. and Y.E.), and by PhD scholarships awarded to T.E. by the University of Haifa and the Nathan Rotenstreich foundation. Finally, we thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their contributing comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

Keywords

  • Anatolia
  • Corrosion
  • Currency
  • Hyksos
  • Lead isotope analysis
  • Levant
  • Middle Bronze Age
  • Mycenaean Shaft Graves
  • Silver

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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