Journey to the Copper Age

Journey to the Copper Age


>>Hello, good afternoon. And a very happy Mothers’ Day,
and such a gorgeous day outside. Thank you so much for coming. My name is Jacob Fisch. I’m the executive director of the Friends of the Israel
Antiquities Authority. And on behalf of Shelby White,
chairman of the Friends, who unfortunately could not
be here this afternoon, I would like to welcome you
to our 11th annual series, “Archaeological Discoveries
in Israel.” This lecture series
is made possible by a very generous grant from the Helen Diller Family
Foundation in San Francisco to the Friends of the Israel
Antiquities Authority. The series brings to us
up-to-the-moment information about the rich treasures,
history, and heritage of Israel and the Holy Land. The Israel
Antiquities Authority, for those of you
who do not know, is the pre-eminent organization in the field of Israeli
and biblical archaeology. It is responsible for all matters
of archaeology in Israel. It is custodian
of the National Treasures, including more than
two million objects, among them
15,000 Dead Sea scrolls and some 30,000 archaeological
sites throughout Israel. The image on the screen is that
of a display at the entrance to the Ancient Near Eastern Art
Department galleries of The Met Museum,
here on the mezzanine floor. The display, a long-term loan of some 30 Chalcolithic-period
objects dating to the
fourth millennium BCE from the Israel Antiquities
Authority to The Met Museum, was initiated in 1996. And we are grateful to The Met
Museum for partnering with us in the presentation of great
archaeological treasures from the land of Israel to the millions of visitors
to this wonderful museum. And I highly recommend,
when you have a moment, a visit to the gallery to see
these fascinating objects that this afternoon’s lecture
will highlight. Now, coincidentally,
one of the objects– I’m not sure that it’s
in this particular image, but is an object
that was excavated by our speaker this afternoon, and I’m sure that he will
speak about it, and, so, there’s
this wonderful connection. I’m also delighted to tell you,
officially, for the first time, that in February 2014,
a major exhibition focusing on the Chalcolithic
culture in Israel will open
at the N.Y.U. Institute for the Studies
of the Ancient World. It is a co-production of
the Israel Antiquities Authority and the institute, which will bring together
more than 200 of the best examples
of these great treasures. And now, to today’s lecture. For today’s lecture,
“Journey to the Copper Age: “The Chalcolithic Metallurgy
Revolution and Its Effect on Israel
and the Neighboring Lands,” we are very fortunate to have
with us Professor Tom Levy, the archaeologist
who is the expert of the art and science
of the period. Tom Levy is
distinguished professor and holds the
Norma Kershaw Chair in the Archaeology of Ancient
Israel and Neighboring Lands at the University of California
in San Diego. He’s a member of the department
of anthropology and Judaic studies program, and leads the
Cyber-Archaeology Research Group at the California Center of Telecommunication
and Information Technology. Elected to the American Academy
of Arts and Sciences, Levy is an 11-time
field archaeologist with interest in the role
of technology, especially early mining
and metallurgy. A fellow of the Explorers Club, Tom Levy has been
the principal investigator of many interdisciplinary
archaeological field projects in Israel and Jordan that have been funded by
the National Geographic Society, the National Endowment
for the Humanities, National Science Foundation,
and other organizations. Tom has published ten books and several hundred
scholarly articles. Levy’s most recent book
is entitled “Historical Biblical
Archaeology: The New Pragmatism,” and it recently won
the Best Scholarly Book from Biblical Archaeology
Society. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Tom Levy to the podium. (claps) (mic cuts out) (applause)>>Thank you very much. Well, it’s a real honor
to be here at The Met today, and I want to thank Jacob and
Shelby White for the invitation. And I’d also like
to thank all of you for coming out of the sunshine
to sit here for an hour and listen to something that
happened around 6,000 years ago. So if you could just take,
for a moment, to think about a world
without metal. The earliest bipedal hominids
have been around for about 4.2 million years, and then it was only
about 4500 BCE that metal appeared
on the world scene. And what we’re going
to talk about today is one of the early centers
of metal production that is in the area of the Holy
Land, which includes Israel, the Palestinian Territories,
Jordan, the Sinai, Lebanon, and Southern Syria. And this revolution coincides with what I call a whole package
of fundamental changes that really established
the Middle Eastern world– subsistence base, if you like–
that we know today. So it all happens around
4500 to 3600 BCE. Well, today, what I’m going
to try to convey is the excitement of this first technological
revolution in world history, focused on metallurgy. Then, towards the end
of the lecture, we’re going to talk
about action archaeology or experimental archaeology, where I had the privilege of leading a group
of international scholars on that quest. And finally,
what I hope we’ll do is, we’ll contextualize a lot
of the Chalcolithic artifacts that you’ll see on display,
as Jacob mentioned, at the Institute for the Study
of the Ancient World, which is part of N.Y.U.– it’s
around the corner from The Met. And also, you’ll get an idea
of those beautiful objects that are currently on display. So what is
the Chalcolithic period? Well, as I mentioned, it dates
from about 4500 to 3600 BCE. It comes
after the Neolithic period, that is, the time when
you have the domestication of plants and animals and the first
sedentary village life. And then, well, it embodies
two Greek words: “chalcos”, which is copper,
“lithos”, stone. We should not forget that metals
continued to be used along stone tool technologies
in this period. And the Chalcolithic was
discovered for the first time in the Southern Levant,
in the Holy Land, in the 1920s, when some priest from the Pontifical Biblical
Institute in Jerusalem carried out excavations around the north end
of the Dead Sea and discovered this new culture. What I’ll argue today
is that this period really marks the beginnings of institutionalized
social inequality. Humankind passed a kind of
threshold of social inequality, early chiefdoms, if you like, and never went back. This gives you a timeline
to sort of sandwich the Chalcolithic period
that you see over here with the metal revolution between the Neolithic and those small, independent
village life communities over here, and the beginnings
of urban life, the first cities
in the early Bronze Age, around 3600 to 2000 BCE. And that’s followed
by the Iron Age, which is very closely linked
to the biblical times. But let’s come up with a model of how to visualize
the societies– that is, the Chalcolithic
social organization and all its components. So this is a model of pre-modern
culture that I like to use. If you think of culture
as a system, it’s composed of little
subsystems including technology, subsistence, exchange, religion,
social organization. Well, what we’re going to see
today is a wide array of major changes
in each and every one of these components
of human culture that really outshows
the developments of the preceding
Neolithic period, and it sets the stage
for early urbanism. And in our area, as I mentioned,
this revolution is connected with the beginnings
of metallurgy, that is the smelting of ores, and in the Southern Levant,
this region here, we have three major
copper ore sources. One is Faynan. This is the largest one–
it’s in modern-day Jordan. It’s about 50 kilometers
south of the Dead Sea. And then we go down
105 kilometers south near the Israeli city of Aqaba,
the Jordanian city of… Excuse me, Eilat,
and Aqaba in Jordan, and we have another major center
at Timna, and then, in the southern
Sinai Desert, there’s a place
called Bir Nasib, another huge copper ore
resource zone. But today, I’m going to talk
a lot about a number of sites. For example,
the Nahal Mishmar site, located here on the west side
of the Dead Sea. The Cave of the Warrior
up here. Teleilat Ghassul, this dot
over here in Southern Jordan, northeast of the Dead Sea. Jericho is over here,
to orient you. Then we have
the Beersheva Valley in the northern Negev Desert
of Israel. All of these dots represent
Chalcolithic sites, by the way. And some of the big sites
include Shiqmim on the Nahal Beersheva. “Nahal” means “wadi,” “wadi”
means “arroyo” in Spanish, and “arroyo” means “seasonal
drainage” in English. Okay, “Nahal”being Hebrew,
“wadi”being Arabic. Then we go about 24 kilometers
north to Gilat, and this is the site
where you actually have a beautiful, violin-shaped
figurine on display here at The Met that we excavated
over 20 years ago in Israel. So these are some of the main
sites that we’ll talk about. There are many others. Down here is the Faynan region, the copper ore resource zone
that we mentioned, so I just want to give you
a feel for the land. And then if we go up here
into the Golan Heights, we’ll be talking
about some sites up there, and then along the Israeli
coastal plain, there’s a number of spectacular
mortuary, cemetery sites. So that’s the general landscape. Well, if we have this new social
organization emerging that we call chiefdoms, that have embedded social
inequality for the first time, how do they work? Well, anthropologists talk about two different kinds
of economic systems that underlie chiefdoms, that give the elites
their power. One of these is called
the Staple Finance system, the other
is a Wealth Finance system. With Staple Finance,
the chief and his retinue organize the production
of foodstuffs and its storage. And then, by having control
of all that storage, at times of risk and troubled political
or environmental times, the chief can redistribute
those goods. This is characterized
by a lot of feasting, and we should find a lot
of evidence of storage. With Wealth Finance systems,
and… Oops, sorry. That’s an anthropological,
ethnographic example of a chiefdom in Nigeria, where you have
this massive storage that’s carried out
by one of these chiefs in these silos above the ground. Wealth Finance really
has to do with the procurement of items of symbolic value, and then trading those items
amongst the elite groups in these regional
settlement systems. There’s a possibility
of long-distance exchange. You might find patronage
of craft production inside the villages
associated with the chiefs. And we should find lots
of prestige objects. So this is what
we would look for. We kind of looked for
these archaeological correlates in the ancient record to identify this kind
of social organization. And here is an example
of an elevated chiefdom in Western Cameroon, where the chief has a lot
of these ritual imports that are made
by craft specialists, and they’re exchanged amongst
the elite in his society. Well, how does this play out
in Israel? Ancient Israel,
the ancient Holy Land? Well, it’s really
back in the 1960s when Israeli archaeologists
were looking for more Dead Sea Scrolls. Imagine, it’s 1960, some of the
greats in Israeli archaeology, like Yigael Yadin… Did anybody hear
of Yigael Yadin? Please raise your hand. Great, okay. If I ask my students that, no,
nobody ever heard of him. But in those days, the young
days of the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces
helped archaeologists a lot. And here you can see soldiers
assembling these rope ladders to be able to penetrate
some of the remote caves here in the Judaean Desert. This is the Nahal Mishmar that these two soldiers
are looking at, and he’s got a walkie-talkie
to help with the logistics of the exploration. The teams stayed
in these little pup tents. This is 1960, 1961. In those days, the main professors, Yadin, seen
here with General Avraham Yoffe, who later helped found the Israel Nature Protection
Society… He’s sitting here
with Pessah Bar-Adon. And Yadin and the main
Israeli professors, they divided up
the Judaean Desert area so that the most
distinguished professors would get the best wadis
to investigate, right? Pessah Bar-Adon only had
a B.A. in archaeology, so they gave him
what they thought would be the lousiest wadi. And… but he was
a very determined researcher. In the 1930s,
he had spent three years living with the Tamira Bedouins
in the Judaean Desert. He knew this area
like the back of his hand. They explored each
and every cave. They got
to this one massive cave overlooking the wadi system, and as always happens, the last day of the expedition,
they found a huge rock, gigantic boulder that they had to enlist the help
of these soldiers, and they pried it out. The rock goes down like, 300
feet down the side of the cliff, and behind it,
what do they find? This massive horde
of beautiful copper objects, that are… it’s now called
the Cave of the Treasure. And you have a number
of these objects on display here at The Met. When it was first discovered, they couldn’t believe that this
was a prehistoric assemblage, but if you look here,
there’s a beautiful straw mat. They ran radiocarbon
dates on it, and it dated to around 3800 BCE. So, but what was interesting, the copper objects were made
from a copper alloy, a high… that contained a high arsenic
and antimony alloy, and since there are no naturally
occurring alloys like that in the Holy Land– the closest source is up
in the Caucasus near Azerbaijan, over 1,000 kilometers away– and so they said… The conventional wisdom was, the people in the Holy Land
were not smart enough to make this stuff– it must’ve been imported
from those areas. But when you look at the motifs
of these objects, these are very much
Levantine motifs, like these gazelles
that you see here. This is a twin-headed gazelle. So when I mention
prestige metalwork, this is what we’re
talking about, okay? It’s this alloyed metal, we’re
looking at beautiful crowns, copper crowns,
hundreds of copper mace heads. Very elaborate copper standards
that you see here, these long ones. Here’s an eagle-shaped one here, and these are other kinds
of weaponry that’s included
in the assemblage. This is a detail
of the twin-headed ibex. So this material– even in the ’60s, it was dated
without any question to the Copper Age after the radiocarbon dates
came in, but the question of
where was this material made was still open. One of my young
Israeli colleagues, by the name of Uri Davidovich, who’s doing his PhD now
at the Hebrew University, he’s done a study of all the caves
containing Chalcolithic material in the Judaean Desert. And there’s about 70 caves
from Masada all the way… Well, from Masada down here
up to Qumran, and then there’s
another 30 caves in the vicinity of Jericho. And what’s interesting is that these caves are really
difficult to penetrate, and here you can see Uri going
into one of these caves. I mean, this is for young
people, right, this job. I mean, I’m past it myself. But here you can see Uri
taking a break near the Cave of the Treasure,
okay? That’s what it looks like today. But he’s reinvestigated
each and every one of these, and what he suggests is that these caves would’ve
been accessed only by ropes and ladders, that these were really
in inconvenient places on the rims of these canyons, and it suggests that the
material that’s found inside, the closest parallel is actually with the Beersheva Valley
culture of the northern Negev Desert. So he suggests
that this is probably… These caves represent
a kind of cave of… caves of refuge, if you like, at the end
of the Chalcolithic period. This is something we suggested
some years ago, but now we’re seeing new data
to confirm that. So earlier I mentioned
that during this amazing period, which is really
the late fifth millennium to the early fourth millennium
BCE, we have what we could call
a package of really radical
socioeconomic changes that come together
in this period unlike anything that had
happened earlier in time. And if we look… Let’s look up for a moment
at the Golan Heights up here. There’s the Negev Desert,
there’s Sinai over here. Here’s the Nile delta,
just to keep you oriented. Well, shortly after
the Six-Day War, Claire Epstein, an archaeologist
who worked with the Israel Department
of Antiquities, which is now the Israel
Antiquities Authority, she carried out the first systematic archaeological
surveys in the Golan Heights. She had to hitchhike,
by the way. They never would give
her a car, those were… Israel was poor in those days. And she discovered the first
Chalcolithic settlement sites. There’s about 26 of them
throughout the Golan Heights. They’re, like…
they’re these beautiful chain-like building complexes. And here she is. She started her research
at the age of about 55 and she went on until her death. And I believe she was about 89. Inside these houses, there’s evidence
of household worship, with these beautiful basalt
statuette heads, which seem to have been used
as incense burners of some kind. They were about
a foot and a half high, and I assume that you will be
getting these here in New York. So what’s important about
this phenomena in the Golan is that it highlights that
all over the Southern Levant, we have our first
population explosion in the history of the Holy Land. And we have the development
of regional settlement systems. And when you get regional
settlement systems, you need some new kind
of social organization to maintain the social ties
amongst the people, and this is one of the things
that contributes to the birth
of social inequality. Another example of these
regional polities are the… is the Beersheva Valley culture
that you see here. But there are others, as well. There’s the… The Nahal Gerar has a whole
Chalcolithic culture. The southern end
of the Dead Sea… the northern end
of the Dead Sea Valley up here has a culture
that’s called the Ghassulian. Almost every single drainage
was occupied. It’s quite amazing. And in the Beersheva Valley,
what we see is the development of a regional belief system. Up and down this wadi, we find
these enigmatic statuettes, made of ivory or basalt, that archaeologists call
Pinocchio figures. It’s not a very elegant term,
but that’s what they call it. But you can see some are
representative of males. Here you can see that a beard
would’ve been attached through these holes. Here’s a female figure here. These were found
at Bir es-Safadi, which is right in the middle
of Beersheva today, and then this one,
we found at Shiqmim, which is about 18 kilometers
downstream, where our team carried out
excavations. Another new development is what the British
archaeologist Andrew Sherratt referred to as the
Secondary Products Revolution. This phenomena happened
all over the ancient Near East, and our region was
one of those hearth areas. And what it refers to is the secondary use of animal
products in a big way, in a very elaborate
and controlled way of exploiting the milk,
the wool, the hair, and the traction
of herd animals. And along with that– because in the Neolithic
and earlier periods, people were keeping animals
just for meat– but now we see, you know, the typical
Bedouin style of life that many of you may know about really comes into play. There are other things
that happen with the Secondary Products
Revolution, and that has to do
with horticulture. The first dates,
date products… The first dates
were domesticated in the Chalcolithic period, and the earliest date seeds have been found
at Teleilat Ghassul, that big Chalcolithic site
northeast of the Dead Sea. And domestic olives really come
online, unquestionably, during the Chalcolithic period. So there’s your date tree
and an olive tree. The Secondary Products
Revolution is really characterized
by this picture, where you see a Bedouin woman
and her little son here in the Israeli Bedouin town
of Tel Sheva, near Beersheva, and she’s got a goatskin churn
that you see here, where you just sit there
for about an hour and you gently shake it
back and forth… Well, let’s say for three hours, and then you can make a kind of
yogurt or even a cheese. I just want to highlight
that in the Chalcolithic, this is the only,
the earliest period where we actually find
ceramic churns in the archaeological record. And this one would be about
two-and-a-half feet in diameter, and you just put
the milk in here. You tie it up to a rafter,
or a tripod, and then shake it
to make the milk products. Here are some Kurdish women
in Southeast Turkey making churns about… Well, this picture,
a friend of mine gave it to me, it was shot about 20 years ago. But this still goes on. So, the same thing,
these massive ceramic churns. And what do you get? You can make…
you can take the cheese out, you can roll it into balls and
dry it on top of your tent, and you get a kind of parmesan
cheese called jameed. Personally, I don’t think
it’s as good as parmesan, but it’s a matter of taste. But the nice thing is, you can
keep this in your saddlebag for five years, you know? Another thing that comes up
in the Chalcolithic is intensive
textile manufacture. And here we find
in some of those cave sites in the Judaean Desert the earliest preserved examples
of the ground loom, which you see here. And the ground loom kind of
weaving continues to this day with the Bedouin
throughout the Middle East. And here you can see this woman
carrying out her craft in that town of Tel Sheva. Another new development
are formal temples, okay? In the Neolithic period
of the Southern Levant– and remember, we’re not talking
about Mesopotamia or Turkey, but we’re talking about
the Southern Levant– the first time where we have
conclusive evidence for pan-regional sanctuaries,
or temples, is in the Chalcolithic period. And we only have
three examples, okay? One of them is here
at Ein Gedi, a beautiful freshwater spring on
the west side of the Dead Sea, and here you can see
the temple complex. You have a long,
rectilinear room here with a big courtyard surrounding
it, a passageway here, and this was excavated by David Ussishkin of Tel Aviv
University, initially. The other sanctuary
is Teleilat Ghassul, located up on, as I showed you,
the northeast rim of the Dead Sea. Here’s a picture of the
freshwater spring at Ein Gedi. This is a photograph
of David Ussishkin and a guest looking at the main entryway
into the temple complex near kibbutz Ein Gedi today–
that’s what these dwellings are that you see
in the background there. At Teleilat Ghassul– and I hope that ISAA
is able to borrow this from the Department
of Antiquities of Jordan– they found beautiful
wall murals, plastered walls inside three
temples at Teleilat Ghassul. This is about 12 feet across
by eight feet high. It’s got a kind of sunburst here
or some other design that we don’t really understand. These could be drinking vessels
or cornet cups around it. This may be a plan
of one of those temples. The same with this. And then there’s a procession
with people wearing these masks that you see here. This is an amazing piece
of ancient artwork. The third temple,
I’m pleased to say, I was honored to excavate with my colleague
the late David Alon, from the Israel
Antiquities Authority. We excavated that site
from about 1987 to 1992. And just to orient you,
there it is, Gilat, and this is the cover
of the book. It’s a massive volume–
it’s a good door stopper. But it’s a complete publication. And here you can see the site with these sheep
grazing over it. It’s not a very impressive site,
but it’s located right at the intersection of
two major environmental zones in the northern Negev Desert: the coastal plain, which has
a relatively high rainfall, about 400 millimeters a year; and then we get into the
interior of the northern Negev. When we get to places like Arad,
which is over here, you only get
about 120 millimeters of annual average rainfall. So our model is that Gilat
emerged as a kind of gateway onto the rich annual
pasturelands here that coincided with this
Secondary Products Revolution. And when we excavated inside the
center of the temple complex, we found these amazing objects. This is known as the Gilat Lady
and the Gilat Ram. They’re about this big, okay? And if you notice,
she may be pregnant. Some scholars have suggested that she’s sitting
on a birthing stool here. You can see her genitalia here. She may have an incense burner
of some kind under her arm. This is the Gilat Ram,
found alongside her, and the ram, of course,
is a symbol of virility. And embedded in
the back of this vessel is three of these cornets, okay? The cornets look like giant
ice cream cones, okay? They’re beautifully decorated, they seem to have served
in ritual contexts, and together,
if you look on her head, what would you say
she has on her head? Okay, somebody said
incense burner. Churn, right. She’s got a churn, exactly. So this is really emblematic
of this major transition that we spoke about, the
Secondary Products Revolution. We also find other aspects
of Chalcolithic rituals. So these people
probably worshipped a number of different gods. And these are the famous
violin-shaped figurines. And if you go up
outside this auditorium and you go
to the Chalcolithic exhibit, you can see one of our beautiful
violin-shaped figurines. They’re made of different kinds
of stone, like granite, different kinds of chalk
and limestone, that come from many different
parts of Southern Jordan and the Negev Desert. And we believe
that these were manufactured in different parts
of the country and brought to Gilat
as offerings. And if we look
at the whole distribution of violin-shaped figurines found all over
the Southern Levant– there’s about 120 of them– more than half were found
at Gilat, okay? Other sites like Peqi’in– you will be getting some objects
from this wonderful cave site– have these beautiful miniature
violin-shaped figurines that you see over here. But they’ve been found
all over the country as far north
as Byblos in Lebanon, but the center is Gilat. And people brought them to Gilat maybe on some kind
of annual pilgrimage. We also find these amazing… Well, we called them
torpedo vessels, for lack of a better word, because we were excavating
during the first Gulf War. So we were thinking
about missiles and all that kind of thing. So this is how they were found,
intentionally broken, around the sanctuary. These things are
over three feet tall, and they weigh over 20 pounds. They’re very heavy. The walls are about
two-and-a-half inches thick. And one of my former students,
Dr. Margie Burton, did a study, a gas chromatography study,
mass spectrometry, to look at the lipid residues
inside these vessels. And what she discovered was that they were used
to hold olive oil. And so we know, in many different contexts
in the ancient Middle East, olive oil was used
in ritual practices. And we believe, we know that
these vessels were also made in about nine different regions
around the Southern Levant, and they were brought
to the temple, with olive oil, as offerings. So this is this package
that I mentioned to you. We also have
the first regional cemeteries in the Southern Levant. In the earlier periods,
in the Neolithic, you have to imagine that
most of the deceased were buried under the house floors
of dwellings. And there were cults
that developed around the plastered skulls
that most archaeologists believe represent the ancestors
of the dead. So it was a kind of
ancestor worship. But in the Chalcolithic, ritual went beyond
the individual family to something much larger. And at these Chalcolithic caves that come all the way
from the Galilee– like, this is the Peqi’in Cave
I mentioned– you have these wonderful
ossuaries, which are about… They can be three feet
in length, two feet, two-and-a-half feet high, and a foot and a half wide. The bones of the deceased
were… Well, the bodies
were left to decompose, and then the bones were put
inside these ossuaries. And many of them have
anthropomorphic faces that you see here. They’re quite amazing. There seems to be
an explosion of experimentation in burial practices in these regional cultures
all over the Southern Levant. Here we are near Ashkelon,
at a place called Palmahim, on the coastal plain of Israel. This is a recently
excavated cemetery by the Israel
Antiquities Authority, and you have these
chain-like cist burials that you see here that were loaded
with human remains. And then you also have
circular burials like that, with ossuaries inside. So the experimentation is
wonderful during this period, and it highlights
these new regional cultures that are unlike anything
in the Neolithic period. Well, when I started
my own archaeological research for my PhD in Israel, I decided to do a survey
along the Beersheva Valley, starting at Arad,
going all the way to where the wadi Beersheva
intersects with the wadi Gaza, otherwise known
as Nahal HaBsor. It’s 120 kilometers. And when I did that,
I just went to David Alon, who was then the director
of Northern Negev Antiquities, and I asked him,
“Can I do this survey?” And he said, “Sure, do it.” So I did it. I didn’t get a license. Sorry, Yaakov. But, you know, those were
the old days. And at that time,
I did the survey by foot and on a bicycle. But this is
before mountain bikes. We only… this was a one-speed. It took me three years. I’d go out in the field for two-and-a-half
to three months each year. But what we found was
this amazing settlement pattern. This is a model
of about a 60-kilometer stretch of the wadi. And we found four major
Chalcolithic settlement centers. Bir es-Safadi,
that had already been known, it had been excavated by the French archaeologist
Jean Perrot. But these…
and this one, Tze’elim, was excavated by Rudolph Cohen,
an Israeli archaeologist. But no one had ever recorded
Nevatim or Shiqmim. Well, Shiqmim, located here on
the Beersheva– wadi Beersheva– the reason nobody found it was because it was in one of
Israel’s best army firing zones. Okay? And so I was naive, and I… But I went in
and I did my surveys. And when we found Shiqmim,
it was an untouched site. It was kind of like the
Chalcolithic nirvana. Unbelievable. And then, over a period
of seven years, we excavated quite a bit of it. We would set up our tent camp
adjacent to the site and we would live in tents
each season. In fact, I still carry out
my excavations in Jordan living in tents, and my Israeli colleagues say
I’m a dinosaur. But I believe you should be
close to your field site to really get the full benefit
of the field season. Anyway, we found
amazing things at Shiqmim. We made a deep section
through the site, and you can even begin
to pick up in this cross-section
of the excavation something that looks
like an underground room. Jean Perrot had found evidence of underground dwellings
near Beersheva, and when we started
our big campaign, second season
of big excavations there, we also found
these amazing complexes of underground networks
of rooms and tunnels. And here you can see
the entrance on the surface of the site that led into one of these
underground room complexes. We removed the roof because it
was so dangerous to excavate. This is what it looked like
during the excavation. Here you can see
this man is crawling through one of the tunnels. Here’s Dr. Yoav Arbel,
one of my former students. He now works for the Israel
Antiquities Authority. He was a field supervisor there. Here’s a cross-section,
in pencil, through one of these underground
room complexes. So what were these used for? Well, we’re going to suggest
that they helped with this ancient staple economy of the Chalcolithic chiefdoms that helped solve this issue
of risk management in the marginal
desert environments. This is a “National Geographic”
reconstruction of our site. This would’ve been
the surface architecture, a rectilinear room complex. And there was a secret passage that led into one of these
underground complexes. It was kind of like
a human ant farm, for those of you that know
what I’m talking about. On the floor
of some of these structures, you have silos
for storing grain, and if we look at what
the whole site looked like, it was something like this, where you had the elite
residence, maybe of a chief. And the activities connected
to metal production are always found associated with these kinds
of elite buildings, okay? In one of our last seasons
at the site, we wanted to test, well, how far do these
underground dwellings extend at Shiqmim? Shiqmim is about 24 acres
in size, surrounded by these small
village settlements that I alluded to before. So now we’re on a hilltop here
that we called Area X, and I began working
with Dr. Alan Witten, who was a famous geophysicist
from the University of Oklahoma. And Alan developed a system called geophysical diffraction
tomography, where we image,
using soundwaves, the underground features
at the site. So here we are,
about 450 feet away from the main center
of the excavation, on this hilltop, and we have these geophones
stuck into the site surface. Now, this system– we published
it in peer-reviewed journals– this system is what the makers of the film
“Jurassic Park” used, if you remember, when the geophysicists are
imaging the dinosaur site. And that was based
on Alan’s work. So what we can do when we take
the data back to the lab, we can use a program
called Earthvision. This would be the hilltop. We can parse out one five-by-
five-meter cube of the site, and we can start to image it, and we can see the beginnings
of a tunnel. You see that?
Here it is. And it’s extending down
over in this area. Well, the trick
is to do a ground truth. What do we mean by ground truth? We mean excavate. So we opened up
the five-by-five-meter square, and there it is: we found the tunnel
leading down. That’s the tunnel there. We found it, perfectly, into
one of these underground rooms. And we can even look up
through the tunnel and see the string
in this Earthvision imagery that you see there. When we take
all the data together, what we see is that these hills
at Shiqmim are a honeycomb with underground dwellings
and storage facilities. That’s what these blobs
are here. These are the underground spaces that we’ve modeled
with the computer program. So, in one of the rooms, we even found a large
grinding installation associated with the storage
for grains that you see over here. And we also sometimes find
some beautiful Chalcolithic art in these underground dwellings, like this violin-shaped figurine
made of bone, but it has
an anthropomorphic head, one of those Pinocchio figures. And I hope that you will get
this on the show for New York. So when we began to… After our excavations, we actually found prestige
metalwork in situ at the site, associated with those large
prestige rooms, if you like– the ones that may have been
inhabited by chiefs. So you can see one here. This is a copper scepter made with high arsenical
copper metal. These are… some of these are
actually on display here. This one was broken, so inside, we found asphalt
from the Dead Sea area, and then we also found
one of these mace heads in situ at Shiqmim. It was very corroded. It was kind of ugly. So what do we do,
as archaeologists, when we find
something like that? Cut it in half,
and that’s what we did. And we published this
in the journal “Archaeometry.” It’s a study that I did
with Professor Yuval Goren and Professor Sariel Shalev
from Israel, and what we found is
that we have… These objects were made
by the lost wax method. And here you can see
a stone core. There would have been a wax
model that encased this thing, and then they would’ve put it
in a mold, and heated up the mold
to get rid of the wax, and then cast the metal inside. So they cast this high arsenical
metal, copper metal. It filled in the space
around this stone core. When we analyzed the stone core, it was made
of glauconitic chalk, a kind of chalk only found
around the Dead Sea. So this was
the earliest evidence that the Chalcolithic
prestige metalwork was actually cast locally
in the Southern Levant. And since our work, there’s been
about 60 different studies of the Cave of the Treasure confirming this. This is an overview, showing you one of these
huge buildings at Shiqmim. This one’s 24 meters
by six meters with some of this
prestige metalwork, a disc-shaped mace head, found as an offering
inside the wall here. This is a plan of Shiqmim
with those underground dwellings all in these hills over here, and then the large
rectilinear buildings, and a copper axe
to remind us that the pure copper represents the so-called domestic industry. We talked a lot about
the prestige metal industry. There was also what we call a domestic industry
of pure copper, and when we did
lead isotope studies of the pure copper objects,
like these axes, they showed conclusively that
it came from Faynan in Jordan, over 150 kilometers away,
okay? Well, the Beersheva culture also
had its own mortuary rituals, and we discovered the first mortuary
or cemetery site complex in the northern Negev for the Chalcolithic culture. And it stretches… It’s adjacent
to the Shiqmim village, and it stretches
for almost a kilometer along the north bank
of the wadi Beersheva, and it contains hundreds
of circular burial structures that were filled
with multiple burials, and we also found cist graves, very much like the ones
I showed you earlier from the coastal plain sites. Here, you see a V-shaped,
typical Chalcolithic ball on the surface here. When we analyzed the bones,
we did, in addition to the typical
anthropological studies, the bioanthropology studies, we also did some trace-element
analysis to look at evidence for any arsenical residue
in the human remains. And we found a number of
individuals in this one grave who were exposed to very high
arsenical pollution quantities during their lifetime,
when they inhabited this area. So we think
that we’ve actually identified some of the metalworkers
who may have been involved in the casting
of prestige metalwork in the Chalcolithic period. This is a Swiss artist’s
reconstruction of what the smelting
would’ve looked like next to one of these compounds
at Shiqmim. And over here, you can see
people farming. There would have been
a perennial water source, because the climate was
different in the Chalcolithic. But when we look for evidence of the actual smelting
of copper ore– that is, where you grind it up,
you put it in a crucible, and you smelt it to get rid
of the mineral impurities, the host rock, and you’re left
with just the raw copper, if you look at the whole
of the Holy Land, if you like, it’s only along
the Beersheva Valley that we really find evidence
of workshops where the smelting of the ore
took place. There’s a… more recently,
there’s a similar phenomena in the very south of Jordan that I’ll talk about
in a moment. But for Israel, it’s all here
in the Beersheva Valley, and this ties into when you have the collapse
of the Chalcolithic– they probably took that prestige
metal work and hoarded it in the caves of the
Judaean Desert over here. And this is just a map to remind
you of where Shiqmim is and where the copper ore source
was for the northern Negev– it was 150 kilometers
away in Faynan. Well, we could really speak
of two provenances of copper production in the Chalcolithic
of the Southern Levant– the Faynan one here, and
another one in Timna down here. But what’s really interesting is that, if you remember
the map I just showed, the Beersheva Valley culture
had a kind of monopoly on copper production, where they would send
expeditions to Faynan to get the ore, to mine the ore, and bring it back
to the Beersheva Valley to smelt. Well, recently,
Jordanian archaeologists working in the south of the country, at the southern end
of the wadi Araba… Here’s Timna over here. About 40 kilometers south, Lufti Khalil
and Ricardo Eichmann, a German archaeologist
and a Jordanian archaeologist, excavated two sites–
Tell Magass and Tell Hujayrat al-Ghuzlan,
down here. And what they found is the same
phenomenon that we found, i.e., you have
the settlement sites here, and they sent miners about
40 kilometers northwest to Timna to mine the ore. They brought the ore back here,
and they smelted it. What’s really interesting
is that we’re now beginning to see the markets
for this copper ore, or, excuse me,
the copper metal that existed at the end of the fifth,
the early fourth millennia BCE. And there you have
some of the ingot molds here, and this is an actual ingot. They found over 100
of these casting molds in the southern wadi Araba. There’s the city of Aqaba,
just to orient you again, and there’s the two sites. When we do
lead isotope studies– this is a great way
to do the trace element studies of ancient metals– my colleague Andreas Hauptmann
of the German Mining Museum was able to show that a number
of the metals that are found
in the Nile delta, at a place called Maadi that’s contemporary
with our Chalcolithic sites, match up with copper metal
found at both Timna and Faynan. So this is really exciting
for trying to understand these ancient trade routes that extended for over
300 or 400 kilometers around the southern deserts
of Jordan, Israel, Sinai, all the way to Maadi,
over here in Egypt. And those are some of the ingots
found at Maadi. You could actually pick them up
and just drop them in these casting molds. So I’m going to close my lecture
with just a brief story of our action archaeology, and it came out of the discovery
of the Cave of the Warrior in the 1990s– 1996. This is the cave. Here you can see some Israeli
archaeologists down here. It was a fantastic cave, and “National Geographic”
asked me to come to Washington and give them pretty much what I’m doing for you
here today– a kind of seminar
on the Chalcolithic period. And these are
some of the wonderful finds. Beautifully preserved mats,
sandals that you see here, wooden bowls,
and wonderful textiles that Tami Schick, seen here, who did the analysis
of the whole assemblage, suggested belonged
to a kind of chief that was buried in the cave. And there you see
the human remains. So when we talked
about all this, the Chalcolithic in Washington, one of the editors for
the “National Geographic” said, “Well, you just mentioned that
the copper came from Faynan, “150 kilometers away
from the Beersheva Valley– why don’t you do it?” And I said,
“What do you mean, do it?” And they said,
“Why don’t you do an experiment “where you mine the copper
as they did in the Copper Age, “you put it on donkeys, because
you said they used donkeys, and you schlep it all the way
across to Israel?” And I said, “Well, if you pay
for it, I’ll do it, okay?” And that’s what we did. And this was a year before
I started working in Jordan in 1990…
or the beginning of 1997. And I knew I wanted to work
in the Faynan area, so I wanted to work
with Professor Hauptmann, who’d just finished his research
in Faynan, so I sent him a fax: “Would you join me on a donkey
caravan in Jordan?” He said, “Sure.” Then I sent another fax
to Dr. Mohammad Najjar, who was the director
of excavations and surveys of the Department of Antiquities
of Jordan. I sent him that fax:
“Will you join me on a donkey?” He said, “Yes.” And we had never met, so this
was a great way to bond. And so we began our expedition
high up on the plateau lands of biblical Edom, or Edom, the red land up here. And this is an overview
of the village of Dana, where we began this work. It kind of looks like
a Chalcolithic village today, and you can go there. There’s… the Nature Protection
Society of Jordan, the RSCN, has beautiful facilities here. It’s a great place to visit. And we’re overlooking this beautiful copper ore
district of Faynan, which is about
400 square kilometers. When you get to know
the geology, you know, there are two main
ore sources– the dolomite limestone shale,
or Burj unit, and the massive
brown sandstone unit– you can start to predict
where the mines are. Here’s the Burj unit–
it’s like a huge seam, over a meter high, of copper
running through the area. It’s absolutely incredible. We rented our donkeys. I didn’t know it at the time, but I said,
“I need ten donkeys.” In the morning I got ten
donkeys, I got ten Bedouins, one for each donkey. So by the time we started
heading down through the valley, we were about 30 people,
so I kind of felt like Moses, you know,
going through this area. And this kind of
gives you a feel of what the expedition was like. It was really exciting. We would load up our donkeys with all our camp equipment and then we’d look at our maps
for ancient water sources, and those would be places that we would end up camping
each night. It took us
about ten days to do it. In antiquity, it would have been
probably something similar, because we had
to always negotiate to get through certain areas,
firing zones and all of that. Here’s the main Faynan Valley. There’s our little expedition
down there. But when you get down
to the valley bottom, already you can see the beautiful blue-green
malachite just there on the valley floor next to these wadis,
like the wadi Khaled. And this would’ve been mined
in the Copper Age. And here, we used
both stone axes, and then we were getting pressed
for time, so we pulled out
the geology axes here. We loaded the copper ore
on our donkeys, and we headed out towards the
wadi Araba, and the village… Excuse me, the border between
modern Israel and modern Jordan. We got the Israeli army
and Jordanian army to open the border. We carried out
the first international and probably only Jordanian-Israeli-American-
German expedition. I was the American,
the Jordanian, Dr. Najjar, the German, Dr. Hauptmann, and the Israelis were David Alon
and Dodik Shoshani, that you see here. And here we are crossing
the border. That’s a Jordanian officer
over here, Israeli police officers
over there. Then we headed
through the wilderness of Zin. Here you see the Nahal HaBsor
in this area, with our little team
making its way through Nahal Zin
in the Negev Highlands, until we finally got to Shiqmim. And this is the site of Shiqmim. We picked up some ground stone
artifacts and started to crush the ore
that we had brought from Faynan, which you see here–
beautiful color. And we grind it really fine. Andreas had brought
the tuyere pipes– these are blowpipes, this is the
reconstruction that we used– with some crucibles
that he manufactured in Germany. We had put this all
in our saddlebags and brought it with us
on the expedition. We bought the charcoal
in the Bedouin market, or shouk, in Beersheva, and then we started
our experiments. And to make a long story short, we found that, you know,
it took about an hour to smelt ten grams of copper,
okay? And here you can see
the smelting in action. After smelting all day,
our tuyere pipes were destroyed. We were just left
with these bamboo pipes. And bamboo still grows
in the northern Negev Desert, by the way. And here you can see
our little team carrying out
the smelting experiments near the underground houses
at Shiqmim. And here you can see
the end result of the smelting and this very minute
amount of copper. Okay, so this would’ve been the
system used in the Copper Age. And what we see is that from our
experiments, we had copper axes which we had called domestic… representative of a domestic
industry of metal production, weighing about 400 grams, okay? That would’ve taken at least 40
hours just to smelt the copper. Then you have to add in the
remelting of the copper, and the smelting–
and the casting, and then the finishing
of the object. Well, if we compare the number of copper axes
found at Shiqmim to stone axes, it’s about one to 250. So, in hindsight, we now think that these,
what we call copper axes, were probably embedded
with a lot of social value. And like
the prestige metalwork, these objects would’ve been
traded and circulated amongst the elites
of the Chalcolithic society as a way of solidifying
social relations, okay? And finally,
if we go back to our model, what I’ve tried to show you
today are these incredible
new technological developments in metallurgy that happen
in the Chalcolithic period– the Secondary Products
Revolution, connected to subsistence; these new exchange networks, with these regional polities
that develop for the first time; organized religion, and the first regional temples
appearing on the scene; and the development of the first
chieftain-level societies in our region. So this is the package, and you’re going
to be privileged to have it here in New York
in the near future. Thank you very much. (applause)

8 thoughts on “Journey to the Copper Age

  1. This was like a Sociology teacher found an archaeologist's notes and corrected them to avoid triggers. Honestly the first time I stopped a history lecture less than halfway through.

  2. WOW FANTASTIC!! I learned a ton from this. Thanks for posting! Couldn't help thinking the whole time about the Old Copper Culture in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that was NEARLY THE EXACT SAME TIME FRAME!!. What's up with that???

  3. The holy land… isn’t that kind of an anachronistic naming or political? That beside, interesting lecture even though his theories on hierarchies and social inequality might be disputed. I recommend dr Yorke Rowan’s lectures as a comparison https://youtu.be/ylpmyu8y73M

  4. "the Holy Land this, the Holy Land that" what an idiot..
    Abrahamic religions are poorly plagiarized from a dozen older religions by Rome, in the common era.
    There's no archeological evidence of a place called Israel or a people called Hebrews until Rome invented them.
    Whatsfreemasondicktastelike?

  5. Digging away the roofs of ancient buildings instead of shoring them up? Cutting ancient artefacts in half instead of scanning them? Is that good archaeology?

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