Rare Canaanite-era trove of gold and silver unearthed in central Israel
A hoard of rare gold and silver objects dating back to the Canaanite period has been unearthed in a 3,600-year-old room excavated at the Tel Gezer National Park, in the foothills of the Judean Hills. Among the finds are a silver pendant with a disc embossed with an eight-pointed star, and an Egyptian scarab coated in gold.
Archaeologists believe the trove is ritualistic in nature, and was placed inside the foundations of the multi-room building as a religious offering. The building seems to have had an administrative role — an assumption strengthened by the structure’s proximity to a city gate.
The cache was found in a lidded clay vessel, wrapped in woven linen whose patterns are still partially visible. The twist of two threads typical of linen weaving from the period can be seen on the fabric, which is unusually well-preserved thanks to having been pressed against the precious metals inside over the millennia.
To date, only two other textile bundles from the Middle Bronze Period have been found in Israel: in Jericho in the Jordan Valley and in Rishon Lezion on the coastal plain.
The trove of metals, which had become lumped together over time, was separated into five parts at the Antiquities Authority metal laboratory. Three of the parts were made up of silver pieces such as rings and a chain, but many could not be separated from the clump because of corrosion.
The other two parts yielded the silver pendant with a round disc, 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) in diameter, embossed with an eight-pointed star in the middle of which is a sphere.
At the edge of the disc are two thin hollow cylinders for tying a chain, and a crescent that is 5.3 centimeters (2 inches) from point to point.
Prof. Irit Ziffer of Tel Aviv University recognized the symbols as representing Canaanite gods similar to the Akkadian gods of Mesopotamia, Ishtar and Sin. Ishtar was the goddess of fertility, love and sex, while Sin was god of the moon.
Shaul Goldstein, the executive director of the Nature and Parks Authority, welcomed the find as a “significant achievement which sheds light on Canaanite culture in Israel 3,600 years ago, and further solidifies Tel Gezer National Park as an archaeological treasure with great significance in Israel.”
The excavation is being carried out by the National Parks Authority and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, under the supervision of the Israel Antiquities Authority.