The earliest silver currency hoards in the Southern Levant: Metal trade in the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

The earliest use of silver as a means of payment in the Levant is generally overlooked, and hoarded silver for use as currency is often considered an Iron Age phenomenon. Based on context, typology, and chemical and Pb-isotopic analyses of silver from Megiddo, Gezer and Shiloh, we show, for the first time, that the earliest material evidence for the use of silver as a means of exchange and value in the Southern Levant dates to the MB III (∼1700/1650–1600/1550 BCE). Further developments are gleaned from the analysis of silver hoards from Tell el-‘Ajjul, a site on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which continued to thrive shortly later (MB/LB–LB I; ∼1600/1550−1400 BCE), while many others sites in the Levant were destroyed or abandoned. Lead isotope analysis (LIA) of silver from these hoards reveals a change in the ore sources of silver, from the MB III, in which silver probably originated from Anatolia, to a different source in the Anatolian-Aegean-Carpathian sphere during the MB/LB–LB I. Comparing the results from Tell el-‘Ajjul with silver from the contemporaneous Royal Shaft Graves in Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese, we suggest that silver in both assemblages likely originated from the same ores, possibly through Cypriot mediation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number105705
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume149
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

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Keywords

  • Anatolia
  • Corrosion
  • Currency
  • Hyksos
  • Lead isotope analysis
  • Levant
  • Middle Bronze Age
  • Mycenaean Shaft Graves
  • Silver

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