Credit: We thank LE Stager and D. Master, the Directors of the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon, and DT Ariel for permission to post these photos….

Scientists have reconstructed the silver trade in the eastern Mediterranean, including traditional dates of the Trojan War, the founding of Rome and the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. The team of French, Israeli, and Australian scientists and numismatists found geochemical evidence of the pre-minting silver trade, which continued throughout the Mediterranean during the late Bronze and Iron Ages, with supply slowing only occasionally. Silver was sourced from all over the northeastern Mediterranean and even the Iberian Peninsula.

The team used high-precision isotope analysis to identify the ore sources of tiny traces of lead in silver hacked silver. Hacked silver is an irregularly cut silver bar including broken pieces of silver bars and jewelry that was produced in the southern Levant from the beginning of the second millennium to the fourth century BC. BC. Served as a means of payment. Its value has been used in local and international transactions by being weighed on scales against standardized weights. It was discovered during archaeological excavations in the region, usually kept in ceramic containers, and had to be imported as silver could not be mined in the Levant.

“Even before minting, there was international trade, and minced silver was one of the commodities that were exchanged for goods,” said Dr. Liesel Gentelli presenting the research results at Goldschmidt’s geochemistry conference.

The team analyzed hacked silver from 13 different sites dating back to 1300 BC. BC to 586 BC In the southern Levant, today’s Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The samples included finds from ‘En Gedi, Ekron and Megiddo (also known as Armageddon). They have compared their finds with ore samples and have shown that most of the hacked silver comes from the southern Aegean and the Balkans (Macedonia, Thrace and Illyria). Some also came from Sardinia and Spain.

Lead researcher Liesel Gentelli (École normal supérieure de Lyon, France) said:

“Former researchers believed that the silver trade ended after the social collapse at the end of the Late Bronze Age, but our research shows that exchanges, particularly between the southern Levant and the Aegean world, never came to a standstill. People around the eastern Mediterranean stayed connected. It is likely that the silver entered the Levant through trade or pillage.

We see periods of silver scarcity around the time of the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age, around 1300-1100 BC. Some finds from this period show that the silver has an unusually high copper content, which would have been added to make up for the lack of silver.

We cannot compare our results on the silver trade with specific historical events, but our analysis shows the importance of the hacked silver trade before the Trojan War, which some scholars dated to the early 12th and the end of the Iron Age in 586 BC Marked by Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Then we see the gradual introduction of coinage, initially as a finding of several archaic coins and later a transition to a money economy in the southern Levant around 450 BC. BC, making the trade in hacked silver less relevant. However, this work shows the enduring and crucial economic role that minced silver played in the economy of the Bronze and Iron Ages. “

In his comment, Dr. Matthew Ponting, Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Materials at the University of Liverpool:

“This is important new work that confirms our understanding of trade and exchange routes in the Levant during the Early Iron Age. The fact that all of the silver found in the region should have been imported offers exciting opportunities to explore trade routes more generally and learn more about the use and preference of alloys in this important period in history. “


Dr. Ponting was not involved in this work, this is an independent comment.

The Goldschmidt Conference is the world’s most important geochemistry conference. It is organized alternately by the European Association of Geochemistry (Europe) and the Geochemical Society (USA). The conference 2021 (virtual) will take place from 4.-9. July instead, https: //2021.goldschmidt.the information/. The 2022 conference will take place in Hawaii.


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