From Iberia to Laurion: Interpreting Changes in Silver Supply to the Levant in the Late Iron Age Based on Lead Isotope Analysis

Tzilla Eshel*, Yigal Erel, Naama Yahalom-Mack, Ofir Tirosh, Ayelet Gilboa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The study of silver, which was an important means of currency in the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages (~ 1950–600 BCE), provides a large and extendable dataset for silver provenance. In this paper, nine silver hoards from the Southern Levant dating to the Iron Age IIB‒C (eighth, seventh, and early-sixth centuries BCE) are discussed in an effort to determine the source/s of the metal. The results show that Iberia, which was exploited by the Phoenicians and provided silver to the Levant already in the ninth century BCE, continued to dominate the Levantine market for more than a century and was the main silver source for Judah and Philistia throughout the Iron Age IIB (eighth century BCE). Later, during the Iron Age IIC, hoards in the Levant reflect a momentous change, as they contain, for the first time since the Late Bronze Age, mostly silver from Laurion (mainland Greece) and Siphnos in the Aegean. This shift, which is dated to the 2nd half of the seventh century BCE, appears to be related to historic developments: After the Assyrian Empire retreated from Western Asia ca. ~ 640/630 BCE, it left behind a political and administrative void, which the Saitic Egyptians took advantage of, attempting to re-gain power in the Levant. As a result, the Phoenicians lost their privileged position as sole providers of silver to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, and the market opened to new agents—especially East Greek traders. This shift probably affected the Phoenicians’ apparatus in the Western Mediterranean and may have been one of the factors that eventually contributed to their detachment from the homeland, in the sixth century BCE.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number120
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • East Greeks
  • Greece
  • Ionia
  • Iron Age
  • Judah
  • Lead isotope analysis
  • Levant
  • Mediterranean trade
  • Philistia
  • Phoenicians
  • Silver hoards


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