Beyond smelting: New insights on Iron Age (10th c. BCE) metalworkers community from excavations at a gatehouse and associated livestock pens in Timna, Israel

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Abstract

This paper presents results of excavations at an Iron Age (~ 10th c. BCE) gatehouse and associated livestock pens in one of the largest copper smelting camps in Timna Valley – Site 34 (“Slaves' Hill”). The extraordinary preservation of organic materials allowed for in depth investigations of animal bones as well as seeds and pollen found in dung piles. The results demonstrate that the gatehouse area was used for keeping donkeys (or mules), which were the common draught animal at the time, together with other livestock (probably goats). The donkeys were fed with grape pomace and hay (rather than straw) that originated from the Mediterranean regions, > 100 km to the northeast (Edom) and 200 km to the north (Philistia/Judea). This food reflects special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the success of copper production and trade in a logistically challenging region. Furthermore, the excavations revealed a deliberate piling of the dung against the inner face of the site's wall, most probably in order to use it as fuel in the copper smelting process (the initial heating of the furnaces). In addition, the excavations yielded insights on the metalworkers themselves, including their rich diet (as reflected by animal bones and seeds) and activities at the gatehouse area. The latter includes secondary metallurgical processes such as refining/melting in crucibles and probably casting of ingots. Lastly, the results of this study shed new light on the Iron Age society engaged in copper production in Timna (probably early Edom), further stressing its complexity and centralized organization, as well as its involvement in inter-regional trade. The gatehouse and walls also indicate substantial investment in deterrence and defense, reflecting a period of instability and military threat in 10th c. BCE Timna.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-426
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017

Keywords

  • Copper production
  • Donkeys
  • Draught animals
  • Edom
  • Iron Age
  • Livestock
  • Timna

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