A rare cache of gold and silver items dated to 3,600 years ago has been found at Tel Gezer, including figurines of the Canaanite counterparts of the Akkadian deities Ishtar, goddess of fertility, sex, love and war; and Sin, god of the moon. The objects were found inside a clay vessel within the foundations of a building, leading the archaeologists to suggest it was deliberately placed there as an offering to the gods to bless the building.
"We have been digging for seven seasons, and this is the highlight," says Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, the head archaeologist of the team excavating Gezer, which had been a key city in biblical times, located along the strategic coastal highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Among the prominent new discoveries are a silver pendant, and a scarab in a gold bezel from the era of Hyksos rule over ancient Egypt, when foreigners from the east overthrew the Egyptian pharaohs of the 13th dynasty and Canaanite rulers in the eastern Nile Delta, in around 1650 B.C.E.
The excavations at the Tel Gezer National Park, between Latrun and Ramle in central Israel, are being carried out by researchers from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, under the auspices of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The silver pendant features a disc with a relief carving of an eight-pointed star, which has a prominent sphere in the center. At the edge of the disc are two narrow cylinders for a lace or chain, to which a crescent is affixed. It is the best-preserved example of an item of this kind ever found in Israel.
Mark of ancient textile
The cache was found inside a lidded clay vessel and wrapped in a woven cloth that has been identified as linen and that left an impression on part of the finding. The vessel was found in the foundations of a room, leading the archaeologists to surmise that it was an offering to the gods, to bless the building.
Only two assemblies of woven fabric dating to this period — the Middle Canaanite (circa 2200-2000 B.C.E.) — have ever been found in Israel, one in Jericho and one in Rishon Letzion.
While cleaning the Gezer trove, a corroded clump of silver items was teased apart, revealing parts from rings and a chain.
"We excavated at the foundations of the wall and found it unexpectedly. What's nice about this trove is that it shows Canaanite culture together with a clear Egyptian influence," Tsuk says.
"Gezer in the Canaanite period was one of the most important cities in the Land of Israel, and its importance persisted into the Israelite period, when King Solomon rebuilt it," said Shaul Goldstein, the director of the NPA.
During the summer excavation season, a palatial building dating to the era of King Solomon 3,000 years ago was uncovered in Gezer, though there is no evidence which of the Israelite kings lived there, if any. The American archaeological team also found a layer featuring Philistine pottery, lending credence to the biblical account of them living in the city until being vanquished by King David.
In 2013, archaeologists announced the discovery of a previously unknown Canaanite city dating to the Late Bronze Age, around the 14th century B.C.E., underneath the ruins of Canaanite Gezer. Among the discoveries there were several pottery vessels, a cache of cylinder seals, and a large scarab with the cartouche of King Amenhotep III.