Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A small silver hoard discovered in Area F

Area F has been very patient. For most of the season, team members have skillfully manuevered around a complex series of walls, pits, and fills. The central feature of interest from the beginning has been a massive structure whose walls measure nearly a meter thick. Unfortunately, most of the building is no longer preserved. The two walls that survive form an L-shape. At the western end of one of these two walls, Diane Benton and Leah DeWitt came across an apparent Iron Age jug. You can see pictures on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AbelBethMaacah. The body was intact but the neck and handle were missing. The interior was chock full of earth. After breakfast, we took the jug over to our lab at Kefar Szold, where our office manager, Laurel Tilton, skillfully cleaned the exterior and gently removed the packed earth in order to bag it for analysis. Our practice is to never clean the interior of an intact vessel, since it may be possible to do residue analysis and get an idea of what substance the vessel contained. Close to the bottom of the jug, Laurel noticed some "ring-shaped" material that was clearly different than the dirt matrix surrounding it. After shining a flashlight into the interior, we were able to see what looked like three bluish "rings" and an additional blue colored fragment. At first we thought they might be rings made from faience. But after calling our majordomo, Shmulik, who happens to be a professional conservator, he immediately recognized the mystery material as corroded silver. Shmulik then properly packaged the jug so it can be sent to Mimi, the Hebrew University conservator, for proper removal and treatment. After Diane removed the jug from its context in the field, the directors told Area F team members about the Megiddo team who found a jug in 2010 containing a hoard of gold, silver and bronze jewelry; however, they only learned about the hoard one year after the jug's initial discovery, when they emptied the jug of its contents for molecular analysis. In our case, we joked about the very slim chance of finding anything inside this vessel. But the rest is now history. Such finds are rare in archaeology, but when they occur, they can provide us with a tiny glimpse into daily life in ancient times. In this case, it looks like someone hid the three rings and what might be a small silver ingot in the jug for safekeeping, but then was never able to retrieve them.

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