A copper awl found during the excavations at Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley is the oldest metal object unearthed to date in the Middle East. The copper awl is a unique and very rare artifact of only 4 centimeters long and 1 millimeter thick at the tip that was set in a wooden handle.
This artifact is important because until now, researchers believed that area residents began to use metals only in the Late Chalcolithic period (during the second half of the 5th millennium BCE, so the discovery reveals that metals were exchanged across hundreds of miles in this region more than 6,000 years ago, centuries earlier than previously thought, researchers say.
Also, the discovery indicates that the site was an ancient international commercial center. When checking the chemical examination of the metal, scientists discover the copper may have come from the Caucasus, some 1,000 kilometers from Tel Tsaf. The import of a new technology combined with the processing of a new raw material coming from such a distant location is unique to Tel Tsaf and provides additional evidence of the importance of this site in the ancient world.This has significant impact on our understanding of the developing use of complex technologies and the related social contexts.
Tel Tsaf was known for possessing large buildings made of mud bricks and a great number of silos that could each store 15 to 30 tons of wheat and barley, an unprecedented scale for the ancient Near East. The village had many roasting ovens in the courtyards, all filled with burnt animal bones, which suggests people held large events there. Moreover, scientists had unearthed items made of obsidian, a volcanic glass with origins in Anatolia or Armenia, as well as shells from the Nile River in Egypt and pottery from either Syria or Mesopotamia.
The cone-shaped awl was found in a sealed grave of a woman about 40 years old that was dug inside a silo, and around her waist was a belt made of 1,668 ostrich-egg shell beads. The grave was covered with several large stones, and according to Dr. Rosenberg, its location within a silo testifies to both the importance of the deceased and the importance the community ascribed to the facility in which she was buried.It also testifies the high social status of the woman and the importance of the building she was buried in.
“The appearance of the item in a woman’s grave, which represents one of the most elaborate burials we’ve seen in our region from that era, testifies to both the importance of the awl and the importance of the woman, and it’s possible that we are seeing here the first indications of social hierarchy and complexity,” said Dr. Rosenberg. “However, in this area far more is unknown than is known, and although the discovery of the awl at Tel Tsaf constitutes evidence of a peak of technological development among the peoples of the region and is a discovery of global importance, there’s a lot of progress still to be made and many parts of the wider picture are still unknown to us”.
Copper is a very resistant metal. It could last for thousands of years and still be of use in today’s era. For example the copper pipe found in the pyramids in Egypt, where it belonged to over 5000 years ago; scientists say the copper pipe could still be used today as it was found in perfect conditions. You can read the full story here.
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Source: techtimes.com, newswise.com, livescience.com
Camilla G// SMC Editor