Medallion from Tel Gezer

Medallion made up of a silver disc with an engraving of an eight pointed star that was discovered in Tel Gezer in June 2016. (CLARA AMIT/IAA)

A personal story: I remember this amazing discovery well. It was this past June when our archaeological team (comprised of New Orleans Baptist Seminary staff and volunteers) was digging at Tel Gezer. Specifically, we were digging in an area between the huge Canaanite / Middle Bronze tower and the city gate. We suspected that this area was used as a guard chamber for Canaanites living around 1,600 BC. Up to this point in the dig we found a lot of pottery (bowls, jar handles, rims from storage jars, etc…) from this “MB II” period. We checked carefully for inscriptions, but did not find any. We were working in two squares. The square I was working on was a smaller probe square just opened this year. Our goal was to see if any stone structure (e.g. wall) could be found at a lower level.

However, it was early on a mid-week morning that a very rare discovery was made in the adjacent square. This square was being worked primarily by only one person, a 22 year old girl (sorry I forget her name now). While we were going down in our square as fast as possible, she was meticulously excavating at the level of a mud floor that was just now being exposed. On this floor was a small clay vessel. The top part of this vessel was already gone, allowing her to spot something of interest laying inside.

Medallion gezer

The girl in the blue was the one who discovered this amazing find! It was found just behind where she is standing, about 6 inches further down.

At first appearance, what was laying inside looked like packed mud. However, it did have a peculiar shape to it. The lead archaeologists of the dig were then called in to offer their assessment. At this point, they did not know what it was yet either. So with a small brush, she continued to very carefully expose more and more of what it was.

Excitement now was growing for sure. Everyone in our area now put down our shovels and brushes to see her reveal what it was. After official pictures were taken of the item still in its position where it was found, it was carefully secured in hand. Although still very dirty, we could tell it was made of medal, silver and gold!  The gold actually still had a faint shine to it, while the silver was tarnished. There gathered in a circle, our eyes were fixed upon what we knew was an very important discovery!

clay vessel medallion gezer

The vessel where archaeologists discovered a Canaanite-era treasure in Tel Gezer. (CLARA AMIT/IAA)

The importance of such a find like this was confirmed by what followed next. Almost immediately, the head of the Israeli Department of Antiquities in Jerusalem (Ronny Reich) was called. Within 45 minutes Dr. Reich was already here at Gezer. Knowing that more technical cleaning and analysis was required to assess exactly what this was, this silver and gold item found in our area was taken back to Jerusalem immediately! In the meantime, we were told by the lead archaeologists to not tell anyone what we found. It was to remain a secret until further notice. We could not even take pictures of it on our own cameras!

This brings us to today when I was so very excited to see a publication about this item for the first time! Now with our find carefully cleaned and analyzed over the last few months by the experts, it is determined that what was found in our area was a silver medallion or pendant with a disc embossed with an eight-pointed star, and an Egyptian scarab coated in gold! This is a very significant find!!

gold scarab found at tel gezer

The gold scarab found at Tel Gezer (CLARA: AMIT/IAA)

Archaeologists believe that was found was part of of something ritualistic in nature, and was placed inside the foundations of this room that we excavated in our area as a religious offering. The reason why we could not determine what it was at first was because it was wrapped in woven linen. The patterns that the fabric left behind can still be partially visible on the medallion itself. According to the experts, “the twist of two threads typical of linen weaving from the period can be seen on the fabric, which is unusually well-preserved thanks to having been pressed against the precious metals inside over the millennia.” To date, only two other textile bundles from the Middle Bronze Period have been found in Israel: in Jericho in the Jordan Valley and in Rishon Lezion on the coastal plain.

As stated in the article, “The trove of metals, which had become lumped together over time, was separated into five parts at the Antiquities Authority metal laboratory. Three of the parts were made up of silver pieces such as rings and a chain, but many could not be separated from the clump because of corrosion. The other two parts yielded the silver pendant with a round disc, 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) in diameter, embossed with an eight-pointed star in the middle of which is a sphere.”

Prof. Irit Ziffer of Tel Aviv University recognized the symbols as “representing Canaanite gods similar to the Akkadian gods of Mesopotamia, Ishtar and Sin. Ishtar was the goddess of fertility, love and sex, while Sin was god of the moon.”

tel Gezer

Tel Gezer (credit: Todd Bolen – Bible Places)

So I have to say that personally it was exciting to be part of such a significant discovery! To see it being excavated out of the ground and to be one of only a few people to lay my eyes on this find immediately after being covered for the last 3,600 years is quite cool! I hope that next year’s dig (at Shiloh or Gath) offers the same excitement and joy.

For the full article on these amazing finds go HERE.

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