Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Bronze & Brass Hoard Volume 52 Number 2, March/April 1999
by Haim Watzman

Three large clay jars containing well-preserved Islamic bronze and brass objects have been recovered at Tiberias, Israel. They date to ca. A.D. 1000, a period once known for its dearth of metal objects. "Many of the objects need no more than a good polish," says Oren Gutfeld, a member of the excavation team led by Yizhar Hirschfeld of Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

The jars were found under the floor tiles of what was apparently a house or metal workshop. "They were clearly hidden deliberately in anticipation of something," Gutfeld explains, "perhaps the Crusader invasion of 1099." The objects include sets of candlesticks and mortars and pestles, as well as an undamaged blue glass vessel. Many of the metal items are decorated with birds, snakes, and mythological animals, some engraved with personal messages in Kufic Arabic script. A set of legs for a cooking implement apparently used for grilling meat was also found. Such grills were known from written texts, Gutfeld notes, but this is the first time that part of one has been unearthed. Between 80 and 100 coins were also recovered. While the coins are Byzantine, with Greek inscriptions and portraits of Jesus and other Christian figures, the religious affiliation of the person who hid the jars remains uncertain.

© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America