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History & Archeology

1,600 Years old Rare Gold Bead from City of David Discovered

“Whoever wore it was certainly affluent.”

The gold bead

The gold bead which was discovered in Israel Antiquities Authority excavations in the City of David. Credit: Koby Harati, City of David

An Israeli teenager, a volunteer, uncovered a rare gold bead from the end of the Roman era while taking part in the sifting project at the Archaeological Experience at the Israel Antiquities Authority’s excavation of the Pilgrimage Road in the City of David, part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The gold bead is handmade in a delicate and complicated process.

“Whoever wore it was certainly affluent,” researchers said.

The bead was made from pure gold and dated to at least 1,600 years ago. The bead was found in dirt removed from a grandiose Roman structure discovered in the Pilgrimage Road Excavation. It was created using a unique technique that required delicate workmanship to affix tens of tiny balls together in the shape of a ring in order to create one small bead.

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The Pilgrimage Road in the City of David is located just to the south of the Old City Walls across from the Kotel Plaza.

Hallel Feidman, age 18, from Bnei Ayish, is the volunteer who found the gold bead. She is a National Service volunteer who is working at the sifting project. “I poured the pail onto the sieve and began to wash the material that was brought from the excavations in the City of David, ” Feidman says as she describes the moment she made the discovery. “And then I saw something shiny in the corner of the sieve, different, that I don’t normally see. I immediately approached the archaeologist and he confirmed that I found a gold bead. Everyone here was very excited.”

The researchers point out that it is possible that the bead was created in a period that precedes the period of the structure in which it was found, however, it is reasonable to assume that the people that lived in the structure used the bead which may have accidentally been lost when the necklace broke.

The find holds distinctive importance due to the lack of gold items found in archaeological excavations, and because beads of this style are not common, due to the unique and complex technique used to create them. The technique most probably originates from the region of Mesopotamia, where it was known approximately 4500 years ago.

The use of the unique technique which came from outside of Israel, coupled with the use of gold in creating this bead, speaks to the wealth of its owner. It is possible that the bead was created in a different area and made its way to the City of David due to the extensive trade relations between Jerusalem and other regions at that time. Another theory is that the bead was gifted to a Jerusalem resident, or, possibly due to its unique nature, the bead was passed within the family from one generation to another as an inheritance.

Similar beads have been discovered in burial caves from 2500 years ago (end of the First Temple period) in Ketef Hinnom near the City of David, during excavations carried out by Professor Gabriel Barkay, but even those beads were made from silver. To this day, only a few dozen gold beads have been found in Israel.

According to Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Although it is a tiny find, it is precisely the personal, day-to-day items that manage to touch and connect us more than anything else, directly, to a certain person. Even with today’s advanced technology, creating something like this would be very complex. A close examination of this object fills one with a deep sense of admiration for the technical skill and ability of those who came before us many centuries ago. ” in the Emek Tzurim National Park operates all year long, and over the years has uncovered numerous finds from different periods in Jerusalem’s history, including a rare jewelry and coins, and pottery fragments.

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