Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Oldest metal object in Middle East discovered in woman’s grave

Posted by Fredsvenn on August 23, 2014


copper awl

The oldest metal object ever found in the Middle East, a cone-shaped piece of copper awl, reveals that metals were exchanged across hundreds of miles in this region more than 6,000 years ago, centuries earlier than previously thought, according to researchers.

The copper awl, discovered has been discovered in a woman’s grave at the Tel Tsaf excavation, an archaeological site in Israel located near the Jordan River and Israel’s border with Jordan, dates back to late th or early 5th millenium BC.

Tel Tsaf used to be a village from about 5100 B.C. to 4600 B.C., and was first discovered in A.D. 1950, with digs taking place from the end of the 1970s up to the present day. Previous findings dug up at this site suggest that the community was once a wealthy international center of commerce.

It’s not exactly something that would catch your eye. The awl — a sharp object usually meant for poking small holes in leather or wood — measures only 4 centimeters (1.6 inches) long, according to a study in the journal PLOS One.

It was set in a wooden handle and found in the sealed tomb of a woman who was around 40 years old when she died. Aside from the 1.6-inch-long awl, set in a wooden handle, she had a belt around her waist made of 1,668 ostrich-egg shell beads and several large stones covered the grave.

“The appearance of the item in a woman’s grave, which represents one of the most elaborate burials we’ve seen in our region from that era, testifies to both the importance of the awl and the importance of the woman, and it’s possible that we are seeing here the first indications of social hierarchy and complexity,” study co-author Danny Rosenberg, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa in Israel, said in a statement.

The awl was found to be made of copper, and pushes back by several hundred years the date it was previously thought that people in the region began to use metals, Israeli researchers said.

Though researchers still don’t know what it was used for, its discovery is important because until now, researchers believed that area residents began to use metals only in the Late Chalcolithic period. This finding moves back the appearance of metal in this region by several hundred years, as early as 5100 BC.

Chemical analysis also showed that the copper probably came from the Armenian Highland about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) away. This discovery suggests people in this area originally imported metal artifacts and only later created them locally.

The grave also shows “the complexity of the people living in Tel Tsaf around 7,000 years before present,” Rosenberg told Live Science. “The find suggests that the people of Tel Tsaf were engaged in or at least had acquaintance with advanced technology, metallurgy, hundreds of years before the spread of copper items in the southern Levant.”

But while the grave, beaded belt and woman’s skeleton were all previously reported in scientific journals, the little awl was only reported on recently, after scientists analyzed its chemical components.

Tel Tsaf possessed large buildings made of mud bricks and a great number of silos that could each store 15 to 30 tons of wheat and barley, an unprecedented scale for the ancient Near East. The village had many roasting ovens in the courtyards, all filled with burnt animal bones, which suggests people held large events there.

Moreover, scientists had unearthed items made of obsidian, a volcanic glass with origins in Anatolia or Armenia, as well as shells from the Nile River in Egypt and pottery from either Syria or Mesopotamia. All in all, these previous findings suggest this community was an ancient international center of commerce that possessed great wealth.

Haplogroup J2 has been traced back to the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea that predominantly comprises the territory of Armenian Highland. According to Eupedia a second expansion of J2 occurred with the advent of metallurgy. Oldest centers of metallurgy have been found in Armenia (Cayonu, Metsamor etc.)

Alex Klysov, a researcher and biochemist noted about the Armenian haplotypes and their spread throughout the ancient world (including Mesopotamia and Canaan): “It is already clear that the basic Armenian haplotype is very old, one of the oldest of researched by us. We find that the original carrier of the basic haplotype for the Armenian population lived at least 6200 years ago, that is, two and a half thousand years before the migration of Abraham from Ur to Canaan.”

The most important problem suggested by a study of craniometrical results concerning Jews is the relation of the type head of the modern Jews to that of the ancient Hebrews and to the modern Semitic skulls. The pure Semitic skull is dolichocephalic [long-headed], as may be seen from a study of the heads of modern Arabs, Abyssinians, Syrians.

The only way the type of the head may change is by intermixture with other races. If the ancient Hebrews were of the same stock as the modern non-Jewish Semites, and if the modern Jews are their descendants, then a pure dolichocephalic type of head would be expected among the Jews.

As has been seen, all results of craniometry prove that the Jews are brachycephalic [broad-headed], and that the dolichocephalic form is only found among them in less than two percent of the cases” (Jewish Encyclopedia IV [1902], 335).

Also, “Some anthropologists are inclined to associate the racial origins of the Jews, not with the Semites, whose language they adopted, but with the Armenians and Hittites of Mesopotamia, whose broad skulls and cuffed noses they appear to have inherited” (Jew. Enc. X [1903], 264). Dr. John Baker’s modern book Race also calls Jews brachycephalic instead of dolichocephalic.

The Jews are divided into Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Oriental branches. All trace their pre-Diaspora (the dispersion of Jews outside of Israel) origins to the ancient Hebrews, who originally belonged to the Orientalid or Arabid subrace of the Mediterranid race.

Racially, the Diaspora is largely a history of further hybridization with the populations of the different regions in which the various Jewish groups resided. The modern Ashkenazic branch associated with eastern Europe, by far the most numerous, is a primarily Armenid blend including lesser elements of Orientalid, Turanid, Ladogan, Alpine, Dinaric and Nordish origin.

Genetic studies of the Ashkenazic Jews have found that their ancestry is 60-70% Middle Eastern [i.e., Armenid and Orientalid] and 30-40% European, with the European elements derived primarily from the maternal lines. The Sephardic branch is primarily an Orientalid-Armenid blend hybridized with West Mediterraneans. The Oriental branch remains basically true to the pre-Diaspora type.

Authors Christopher Stringer and Clive Gamble noted that “It is likely that by the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora the Jewish people were already hybridized with Armenid elements.”

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Oldest Metal Ever Discovered In Middle East Found In A Woman’s Grave In Israel

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Copper awl from Jordan Valley is oldest metal ever discovered in Middle East

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