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ARCHAELOLOGY

Gold bead from late antiquity discovered in City of David excavations

The pure gold bead is at least 1,600 years old

The gold bead that was discovered in the excavations of the Antiquities Authority in the City of David (Photo: Kobi Harathi)

A gold bead from the end of the Roman period was discovered at the Archaeological Experience project in the Emek Tzurim National Park in Jerusalem’s City of David. 

The pure gold bead, dating back at least 1,600 years, was discovered inside of dirt that was removed from a large Roman structure found during the Pilgrims Road excavation. The bead shows a high level of craftsmanship, as it required a unique technique of attaching seven tiny balls together in a ring. 

Finding gold items in archaeological excavations is rare, according to Amir Golani, an expert in ancient jewelry at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“Throughout all my years in archaeology, I have found gold perhaps once or twice, so to find gold jewelry is something very, very special,” he said. 

The gold bead that was discovered in the excavations of the Antiquities Authority in the City of David (Photo: Kobi Harathi)

According to Golani, the bead was likely part of a necklace or bracelet that had other beads. 

“Whoever could afford a piece like this made from gold, was an affluent person, with means,” he said. “A good understanding of the materials and their properties is required, as well as control over the heat, in order to, on the one hand, solder the tiny balls together to create a tiny ring, while also preventing overheating which may lead all the gold to melt.”

“Only a professional craftsman could produce such a bead, which is another reason that this find holds great value,” Golani said.

The crafting technique was probably Mesopotamian and is known to have existed about 4,500 years ago. The combination of a foreign crafting technique and the use of gold indicates the wealth of the owner. While it is possible the bead was crafted in another region and brought to the City of David through trade, it my also have been part of a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. 

National Service volunteer Hallel Feidman, 18, spotted the bead while sifting at the excavation. 

Part of the magnificent Roman structure inside which the bead was discovered (Photo: Kobi Harathi)

“I poured the pail onto the sieve and began to wash the material that was brought from the excavations in the City of David. And then I saw something shiny in the corner of the sieve, different, that I don’t normally see,” said Feidman. “I immediately approached the archaeologist, and he confirmed that I found a gold bead. Everyone here was very excited.” 

Similar beads, crafted from silver, were discovered in the Ketef Hinnom caves southwest of the City of David, during excavations led by Professor Gabriel Barkay. Those beads were dated to the end of the First Temple period. However, only a few dozen golden beads have been found in Israel so far. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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