update deskArchaeology

Researchers restore 6,000-year-old ivory vessel from southern Israel

The rare Chalcolithic-era (4,500–3,500 BCE) vessel attests to the commercial ties between the land of Israel and Egypt 6,000 years ago, says the Israel Antiquities Authority.

An ancient ivory vessel discovered in southern Israel. Credit: Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority.
An ancient ivory vessel discovered in southern Israel. Credit: Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority.

A vessel made of elephant tusk dating back six millennia uncovered in an archaeological excavation near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva has been newly restored, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

The rare vessel, from the Chalcolithic period (4,500–3,500 BCE), attests to the commercial ties between the land of Israel and Egypt 6,000 years ago, the state-run archaeological body said.

The 7.9-inch wide vessel, which was found shattered into pieces in a 2020 dig and has been recently reconstructed in laboratories, will be displayed for the first time in public on Thursday at a Jerusalem conference.

The excavation at Horbat Raqiq uncovered an ancient settlement with subterranean spaces. During the dig, three large, impressive vessels were found. Two of the vessels were placed one in the other, with the third acting as a cover for them both. When the upper plate was removed, the lower plate was discovered to be full of earth, within which lay the shattered pieces of the ivory vessel, a rare and precious material.

The broken ivory vessel deposited within the large basalt bowls. Credit: Davida Dagan/Israel Antiquities Authority

“From the manner in which the bowls were arranged, the ivory vessel, which was broken already in antiquity, was clearly interred in a deliberate fashion—which would seem to attest to the importance attributed to it,” explained Ianir Milevski, former head of the IAA’s prehistoric branch, who is also associated with the National Research Council of Argentina.

Further biomolecular analyses will establish where the ivory originated from, based on the elephant’s diet.

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