A copper awl, the oldest metal object found to date in the Middle East, was discovered during the excavations at Tel Tsaf, according to a recent study published by researchers from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
According to the study, which appeared in the prestigious journal “PLOS One,” the awl, a long pointed spike, dates back to the late 6th millennium or the early 5th millennium BCE, moving back by several hundred years the date it was previously thought that the peoples of the region began to use metals.
Aerial view of Tel Tsaf
A small finding with big meaning
Tel Tsaf, a Middle Chalcolithic village dated to about 5200-4600 BCE, is located near the Jordan River and Israel’s border with Jordan. The site was first documented in the 1950s and excavations there began at the end of the 1970s. From the earliest digs nearly 40 years ago, this area, the most important archeological site in the region dated to this period, has been supplying researchers with a great deal of valuable data.
Yet the most important finding to date is only 4 centimeters long. In the current research project led by Dr. Danny Rosenberg this unique item, a copper awl measuring 1 millimeter thick at the tip that was set in a wooden handle, was actually found during a previous excavation at the site by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University. The cone-shaped awl was found in a sealed grave of a woman about 40 years old that was dug inside a silo, and around her waist was a belt made of 1,668 ostrich-egg shell beads. The grave was covered with several large stones, and according to Dr. Rosenberg, its location within a silo testifies to both the importance of the deceased and the importance the community ascribed to the facility in which she was buried.