King Solomon's Silver

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Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1147-1149
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6163.1147-e

Isotope analysis of archaeological materials can play critical roles in both dating of the artifacts and identification of their origin. Thompson and Skaggs use the lead isotope ratios in silver from silver hoards to investigate trade patterns during a Mediterranean “Dark Age” between 1200 and 800 BCE precipitated by the collapse of palace-based economies in the Near East. Lead isotope analysis of 48 precoinage silver artifacts from what was southern Phoenicia [the region between the Yarkon River and Akko (Acre) in present-day Israel] and dated from 1200 to 800 BCE shows that they have isotope ratios similar to those of galena (the mineral form of lead sulfide) and other lead ores from southern and southwestern Sardinia, and the Iberian Peninsula. These analyses tentatively identify regions in the western Mediterranean as contributing mineral resources to Phoenician precolonial silver trade and production. The results correlate with ancient documentary sources indicating Phoenician precolonial silver trade with Sardinia and Spain and suggest that the Phoenician precolonial expansion into the west may have involved the acquisition of silver. Thompson and Skaggs further support suggestions that the legendary Tarshish region, a possible source of King Solomon's silver, may have been a refinery town, possibly Nora, on Sardinia.

Internet Archaeol. 35, 10.11141/ia.35.6 (2013).

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