An early Iron Age assemblage of faience beads from Ashkelon, Israel: Chemical composition and manufacturing process

Michael B. Toffolo*, Eugenia Klein, Rivka Elbaum, Adam J. Aja, Daniel M. Master, Elisabetta Boaretto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The microstructure and chemical composition of eight faience beads from an early Iron Age (12th century BCE) assemblage found in the ancient city port of Ashkelon (Israel) are determined by means of FTIR spectrometry, pXRF, microRaman and SEM-EDS analysis. The results are compared with published data of Egyptian and Near Eastern artifacts. Each sample exhibits a hue which is obtained by adding a specific colorant to the glazing mixture. A new gray chalcopyrite-manganese-based colorant was identified. Cementation glazing was most likely used in the manufacturing process of the specimens analyzed, except for the blue bead, which is an Egyptian blue frit. The results suggest that these objects represent a unique assemblage, quite different from contemporary Egyptian and Near Eastern materials, and provide new information regarding the Iron Age faience evidence in the southern Levant.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3626-3635
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was conducted under the auspices of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon under the direction of Lawrence E. Stager and Daniel M. Master. Licenses were provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Primary funding for the excavation and analysis was provided by a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation . MBT wishes to thank Steve Weiner for useful discussions, Adi Eliyahu-Behar for assistance in the preparation of the SEM-EDS casts, and all the 2010 Staff members of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, in particular Jessica Calhoon-Long. Part of the research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC grant agreement n° 229418 and from the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science . The electron microscopy studies were conducted at the Irving and Cherna Moskowitz Center for Nano and Bio-Nano Imaging at the Weizmann Institute of Science.


  • Ashkelon
  • Beads
  • FTIR
  • Faience
  • Iron Age
  • PXRF
  • Raman


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