Middle East Grave Held The Oldest Metal Object Ever Unearthed

Selina Leavitt

A new discovery has been made in the Middle East that sheds much greater light on the history of the area.

An archaeological site in Tel Tsaf, Isreal near the Jordan River has been working to uncover a village discovered in 1950. Digging began in the area at the end of the 1970s. Archaeologists believe that the Middle Eastern village existed somewhere between 5100 B.C. and 4600 B.C., though there's still a lot to be understood about it.

So far, archaeologists know that the village had large buildings composed of mud bricks, and silos that were able to contain 15 to 30 tons of food. It also had many roasting ovens filled with animal bones. It's possible that large events were held in the courtyards.

The village seems impressive even for the modern-day Middle East.

Now, the Middle Eastern dig-site has unearthed something much more interesting than one might initially perceive it to be.

Recently, archaeologists found a grave dug inside a silo and covered with several large stones. In the grave were the remains of a woman of about 40 years old. Around her waist was a belt constructed of approximately 1,600 ostrich-egg shell beads.

All the factors lent to the hypothesis that the Middle Eastern woman was considered special during her time.

The final thing they found in her grave was a copper awl about 1.6 inches long, with a base about 0.2 inches wide and a tip that just reached 0.03 inches wide. The metal was set in a wooden handle.

It's not the awl that's particularly interesting, but what the awl suggests for the history of the Middle East.

The discovery indicated to archaeologists that metals were imported to the Middle East up to 6,000 years ago, hundreds of years earlier than was originally believed.

"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," Danny Rosenberg, an archaeologist at the University of Haifa in the Middle East, co-author of the study, said.

Until now, the earliest evidence of metal use in the Middle East was seen in gold rings found within the Nahal Qanah cave and dated somewhere between 4500 B.C. and 3,800 B.C.

[ Images courtesy of The Jerusalem Post and The Sciency Thoughts Blog ]