The stone-to-metal transition reflected in the Iron Age copper production sites of Timna Valley, Israel

Ron Shimelmitz, Ben-Yosef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metalwork was a major technological innovation that displaced stone-tool technologies and transformed human society and the environment. However, our understanding of these processes remains partial. In this paper, we approach the stone-to-metal transition from a novel angle–the presence of flint knapping at metal production sites. Drawing on excavations at the Late Bronze and Iron Age copper smelting sites in Timna Valley, Israel, we demonstrate that systematic production of expedient stone tools was integral to these sites’ industrial operations, placing it at the heart of the very same metal circulation networks that were presumably responsible for its displacement. The observations from Timna, coupled with evidence for the use of chipped stone technology in other early Iron Age metallurgical contexts, support the hypothesis that it was probably both the high accessibility of iron and its qualities that put an end to the stone tool industry. Copper and bronze could not easily fulfill the function of the ad hoc stone tools and were not used to replace stone tools even if they were available and accessible.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0294569
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Shimelmitz, Ben-Yosef. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Archaeology
  • Copper
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Metallurgy
  • Technology


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