A new approach for dating ancient quarries is applied to shed new light on the problem of calcite-alabaster provenance in the southern Levant. Until now, calcite-alabaster artifacts from this region were commonly attributed to Egyptian sources. This raw material was used for the production of luxury vessels as well as high-class architectural elements and furniture. We show for the first time that calcite-alabaster was quarried in the southern Levant from flowstone, which is deposited in karstic caves under free air conditions. Two flowstone quarries were discovered, in Te'omim and 'Abud Caves, located on the western slopes of the Central Highlands of Israel. Both quarries produced together over 200m3 of raw material. A broken column at 'Abud Cave indicates that large calcite-alabaster artifacts were produced inside the cave. Following the quarrying, additional flowstone was deposited on top of the quarried surface by continuous sheet flow of water. We use this deposit to constrain the quarrying period. The first abandoned parts of the Te'omim quarry are dated by U-Th to the Middle Bronze Age (first half of the 2nd millennium BCE). This dating is corroborated by archaeological finds within Te'omim Cave, as well as by the wide distribution of calcite-alabaster artifacts in south Levantine sites during this period.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Re'uel Qesel and Ayala Amir helped in collecting data associated with calcite-alabaster. Gal Yas'ur assisted with laboratory work; Yulia and David Rudman prepared the pottery drawings. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Antiquities Authority provided permits for the study. This research was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 104/2013 ).
- 'Abud Cave
- Egyptian alabaster
- Karst cave deposits
- Stone vessels production
- Te'omim Cave
- U-Th dating