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Steatite beads at Peqi'in: Long distance trade and pyro-technology during the Chalcolithic of the Levant

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The Chalcolithic burial cave of Peqi'in, northern Galilee, Israel, yielded about 190 beads made of white paste found in the context of ossuaries. They range in size from 2–4 mm in diameter, 1–3 mm in height, and hole diameter is approximately 1 mm. The beads were analyzed using scanning electron microscope (SEM) and x-ray diffraction (XRD). Under the SEM the beads contain silicon and magnesium, with traces of copper and iron. XRD analyses revealed that the beads are made of enstatite, a Mg-bearing pyroxene, and cristobalite, a high-temperature polymorph of quartz, formed when quartz is heated at 900–1470 °C.Our preliminary results suggest that the beads were made by heating talc to a high temperature. First a paste was prepared from powdered talc, water and a binding material. The paste was then shaped into long tubes and fired at a high temperature. This firing hardened the paste and transformed the talc into enstatite and cristobalite. Finally the tube was sliced to form beads.Neither talc nor enstatite is found in Israel. The nearest possible sources for this raw material are metamorphic rocks exposed in Turkey or Egypt. Similar contemporaneous technologies are known from Egypt and the Indus Valley. Here we present the first documentation of Chalcolithic pyrotechnology applied for non-metallurgical purposes. This find is thus of prime importance for both technological innovations and long distance trade during this period.
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Steatite beads at Peqi’in: long distance trade and pyro-technology
during the Chalcolithic of the Levant
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer
a,b
*, N. Porat
c
, Z. Gal
d
, D. Shalem
e
, H. Smithline
d
a
Peabody Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138, USA
b
Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel
c
Geological Survey of Israel, 30 Malkhe Israel Street, Jerusalem 95501, Israel
d
Israel Antiquities Authority, P.O. Box 586, Jerusalem, Israel
e
Institute for Galilean Archaeology, University of Rochester, USA
Received 29 May 2003; received in revised form 20 September 2003; accepted 13 October 2003
Abstract
The Chalcolithic burial cave of Peqi’in, northern Galilee, Israel, yielded about 190 beads made of white paste found in the context
of ossuaries. They range in size from 2–4 mm in diameter, 1–3 mm in height, and hole diameter is approximately 1 mm. The beads
were analyzed using scanning electron microscope (SEM) and x-ray diraction (XRD). Under the SEM the beads contain silicon
and magnesium, with traces of copper and iron. XRD analyses revealed that the beads are made of enstatite, a Mg-bearing
pyroxene, and cristobalite, a high-temperature polymorph of quartz, formed when quartz is heated at 900–1470 (C.
Our preliminary results suggest that the beads were made by heating talc to a high temperature. First a paste was prepared from
powdered talc, water and a binding material. The paste was then shaped into long tubes and fired at a high temperature. This firing
hardened the paste and transformed the talc into enstatite and cristobalite. Finally the tube was sliced to form beads.
Neither talc nor enstatite is found in Israel. The nearest possible sources for this raw material are metamorphic rocks exposed
in Turkey or Egypt. Similar contemporaneous technologies are known from Egypt and the Indus Valley. Here we present the first
documentation of Chalcolithic pyrotechnology applied for non-metallurgical purposes. This find is thus of prime importance for
both technological innovations and long distance trade during this period.
2004 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Keywords: Chalcolithic; Levant; Beads; Steatite; Trade; Pyro-technology
1. Introduction
Stone beads are part of the material culture that is
very often either ignored or not thoroughly investigated,
yet their potential for better understanding various
cultures is great. They can teach us about long distance
contacts, technological innovations and spiritual lives,
to name just a few aspects. One example is the stone
bead assemblage from Peqi’in.
The unique Chalcolithic burial cave discovered in the
course of road construction in 1995 at Peqi’in in the
Upper Galilee (Fig. 1) yielded a variety of objects and
data that significantly contribute to the study of this
period [18,19]. Their importance lie especially in the
context of the debate concerning the nature of social
hierarchy in this period [21,23,27,28,39].
This karstic cave consists of three units situated
on three levels sloping down from east to west. A
depression in the cave floor was intentionally filled with
soil and stones in order to raise and, thus, unify the
level of the cave bottom. A variety of objects, mostly
ossuaries and jars, some of which calcified as a result of
karstic activity, were found in these units. Above the
southwestern end of the inner unit, 2 m higher than its
floor, is an additional loft-like area, which was utilized
for ossuary and jar burials as well. The cave shows two
phases of use: the first, in the pre-Ghassulian stage, it
most probably served for seasonal dwelling. The second
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +972-4-824-0070; fax:
+972-4-824-9876
E-mail address: baryosef@research.haifa.ac.il (D.E. Bar-Yosef
Mayer).
Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502
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Fig. 1. Location maps. a. The areas and sites mentioned in the text. b. Location of Peqi’in Cave and other sites in Israel.
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502494
and the main phase was in the Ghassulian phase of the
Chalcolithic Period, when the cave was transformed
into a burial place from which most of the finds
originated. Shortly after the final burial, but still within
the Chalcolithic Period, the cave experienced violent
robbing activities.
Despite this the finds from the cave comprise one of
the richest and most varied assemblages ever found in a
Chalcolithic Period site in the southern Levant [18,19].
This assemblage consists of dozens of ossuaries, all
ceramic, in a variety of types, shapes and models. The
outstanding finds are the ossuaries with facades or lids
made of plaques with painted faces, plaques with
applied human facial features and three-dimensional
sculpted human heads. Ossuaries, jars, an ivory figurine,
bronze and copper objects and basalt bowls typical of
the Chalcolithic period and found in other sites from
Be’er Sheba to Byblos, were all present at Peqi’in.
The cave was in use for an extended span within the
Chalcolithic Period and served a local population, or
functioned as a central burial site for an extended
population of several villages, or was a sacred
re-inhumation site for a wide spread non-sedentary
population. What makes this site so unique is that for
the first time, all of the Chalcolithic regional sub-
cultures, from Gilat and Be’er Sheba in the Negev, the
Judean Desert, the Jordan rift valley and the Golan to
the east, and the coastal plain to Byblos in the west, are
found in a single defined context.
Following the abandonment of the cave and its
robbery in antiquity, karstic activity increased and
produced hundreds of stalactites on the ceiling and
stalagmites on the floor, covering ossuaries, burial jars,
bones and other objects. This petrifying process created
numerous formations. When studying the geological
evidence in the cave, several samples of stalactites and
stalagmites that grew on top of various ossuaries were
examined and dated by the
230
Th/
234
U disequilibrium
method. A date of 6780 years B.P. from the base of a
stalagmite that sealed an ossuary at the Peqi’in Cave
provides us with an independent chronological anchor
[3]. This date is consistent with
14
C dates from the cave
and from other Chalcolithic sites, dating this period to
the fifth millennium BCE [42].
Among the rich finds in the cave is an assemblage of
over 500 beads. Forty-two were made of identifiable
shells, and these are described elsewhere [5]. 487 beads of
various shapes and colors were made mostly of minerals
and rocks, with some unidentifiable shell. The minerals
and rocks include carnelian, amethyst, limestone of
various forms and colors, various green minerals includ-
ing turquoise, volcanic rocks and more. These are cur-
rently being studied. The largest group of beads, 190 in
number, is made of a white paste, sometimes glazed (Fig.
2). Our initial naked-eyed observation of the beads that
defined them as faience, turned out to be a common
mistake [35].
2. Description of the shape and size of the beads
All of the glazed/paste beads (but for one) are from
the burial phase of the cave. They have a whitish color,
with occasionally a faint green hue on the outside layer.
Based on comparison with beads in Egypt (see below),
Fig. 2. Steatite beads from Peqi’in.
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502 495
one should consider the possibility that their faint color
may be the remains of an originally brighter blue-
green glaze, which weathered over time as a result of
environmental conditions in the cave.
The majority of these beads fall into Beck’s category
of I.B.2.b [11]. This means a rounded bead, short
cylinder (its length not larger than the diameter of the
bead), which has a plain perforation (the hole is parallel
from one end to the other).
We have measured 78 out of the 190 beads, about
half. A few of the unmeasured beads were not included
as they were broken or they broke during measurement.
The length of the beads is between 0.9 mm and 3.0 mm
with an average of 1.71 mm. In a few cases the bead was
cut crookedly so we took two measurements, e.g. 0.9–1.3
or 1.4–1.8, but we used the average of this length in
calculating the total average. Outer diameter ranged
from 2.3 to 7.0 mm with an average of 2.89 mm. Inner
diameter (or diameter of the hole) ranged from 0.5 to 1.7
mm with an average of 1.05 mm.
3. Analyses of the material
The beads were first examined under 10–40 magni-
fications using a binocular microscope. Representative
beads were then selected for further analyses. A scanning
electron microscope (SEM) equipped with an energy
dispersive spectrometer (EDS) was used for defining the
texture and structure of whole beads as well as for
semi-quantitative chemical analyses of the dierent
components of the beads. X-ray diraction (XRD) of
powdered beads was used to identify their mineralogy.
Under the SEM the beads contain silicon and mag-
nesium with traces of copper and iron. The texture is of
loosely packed elongated columnar crystals with no
preferred orientation. In places they are covered by
aggregates of very fine powder of similar composition,
apparently the remains of the glaze (see below).
XRD analyses revealed that the beads are made of
enstatite and cristobalite. Enstatite is a Mg-bearing
pyroxene, while cristobalite is a high-temperature poly-
morph of quartz, formed when quartz is heated to a high
temperature. Natural enstatite is a rare and hard-to-
carve mineral, therefore we searched for other materials
as a source for the beads. We propose that a more
common magnesium-bearing mineral was used—steatite
(commonly known as talc) [12]. Upon heating, steatite
decomposes and recrystallizes to give enstatite and a
silica phase of cristobalite. The temperature required
to transform steatite to enstatite may vary; dierent
temperatures are found in the literature ranging from
“exceeding 1200 (C” [31], 1100 (C[14],to900(C[47].
Under geological environments of high pressure the
presence of cristobalite indicates a temperature of at
least 1470 (C[13].
The trace amount of copper in the beads could not be
studied, but future research may enable tracing the
source of some of the raw materials involved. Several
possible sources of copper exist in the southern Levant
(Sinai, Timna, Wadi Feinan) but dierentiating between
copper deriving from any of them is still a challenge [27].
Unfortunately very little glaze was preserved on the
specimens studied and more analysis is required in the
future to characterize the glaze.
4. Process of manufacturing steatite beads
Several scholars have attempted to reconstruct the
production process of steatite beads. Among the first is
Beck, who wrote in 1934: “It has been said (Bauerman,
A Text Book of Descriptive Mineralogy, p. 222, foot-
note) that a steatite paste made by mixing finely
powdered steatite and water becomes, when heated, a
very hard, compact material. Several experiments that I
have tried failed completely to fuse it together, and the
least touch reduced it to a powder. Dr Thomas, of the
Geological Survey, confirmed this, and said that under
these conditions pure steatite would not fuse, but that if
the steatite was very impure and contained a quantity of
feldspar it probably would fuse. I think it probable that
Bauerman accidentally omitted to say that a flux was
used. It has been pointed out (Sir John Marshall, op.
cit., p. 576, footnote) that a steatite paste formed by
mixing finely powdered steatite and silicate of soda can
be fused. This can be done by heating either to a red heat
for a short time or to the low temperature of 100 (C for
a couple of hours” [12, p. 81].
Tite and Bimson [44] were concerned primarily with
the glazing: “.the steatite body can be glazed either by
the cementation method in which the body is fired whilst
buried in a glazing mixture, or by the direct application
of a raw or fritted glaze mixture to the surface of the
body prior to firing. .On firing to form the glaze, the
talc is converted to enstatite (MgSiO
3
) and the body
becomes very much harder.”
The mere heating of steatite at a temperature of
900 (C or above can bring it to a hardness of 7 on the
Mohs scale [47] and turn it white. At this point it
changes from steatite to enstatite.
According to Hegde “The raw stone was worked into
a paste (no mention of how that was produced, D.B-
Y.M.) which was then pressed through an aperture and
carefully trimmed into individual beads; the soft beads
were baked to produce the final product.” [23].
Reconstruction of the production phases at
Mehrgarh, Pakistan, dated from the seventh to fourth
millennia BC (see below), was based on the debitage
found at the site, following Barthe´lemy de Saizieu and
Bouquillon [8]:
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502496
Fragments of steatite were smoothed; grooves were
incised to enable cutting of parallel bars; bars were
sawed, then smoothed on four sides to sub cylindrical
blanks; The bars were perforated from two ends, then
cylindrical rings were cut by slicing, and polished to
obtain final shape. Firing and glazing was the last
step (the glaze appears for the first time in Period III,
i.e. the Chalcolithic). Thus these beads were not made
out of paste but carved directly out of the soft, solid
steatite.
Combining our analyses of the Peqi’in beads with the
production processes presented above, we propose that
the following steps were used to produce the beads in
Peqi’in: first a paste was prepared from powdered talc,
water and perhaps a flux or a binding material. The
paste was then shaped into long tubes, probably along a
thin rod (of unknown material), and fired at a high
temperature. This firing hardened the paste and trans-
formed the talc into enstatite and cristobalite. Finally
the rod was removed, thus creating the plain hole. It is
not clear if the tube was sliced into beads before or after
firing. Further experimentation is required to elucidate
the details of the production sequence.
5. Origins
The discovery of steatite beads at Peqi’in intrigued us
in several ways: where did this material come from,
where was it manufactured, and how?
5.1. Origin of raw material
Steatite is a rock composed primarily of the mineral
talc. Talc is a hydrated magnesium silicate of the
composition Mg
3
Si
4
O
10
(OH)
2
that is characterized by
extreme softness (registering 1 on the Mohs scale) and a
soapy feel [1]. It appears in a variety of colors for which
very crude geographical distinctions may be hazarded:
white or grayish white are from Egypt and the Indus
Valley; Red, colored by iron oxides, is sometimes
encountered in later prehistoric Mesopotamia; Dark
green to black, with a greasy, soft feel is commonly
encountered in Syria and northern Mesopotamia for
beads and seals [33]. Talc is also a well known raw
material used in southeastern Turkey.
5.2. The origin of steatite beads
The question of the origin of steatite beads has long
been of concern to various scholars [15,17]. To date,
there are no known steatite beads in other Chalcolithic
sites in the Levant perhaps because: (a) as mentioned
above, they may have been confused with faience or
other material; and (b) the study of beads in general is
rather superficial and rarely goes beyond description of
shape and color; and (c) insucient recovery methods
were employed during excavations. The mention of
faience beads at Nahal Mishmar [2],
1
at the Nawamis
sites of southern Sinai [6,7], and at Neve Noy [16] merit
further investigation. Thus, in the absence of definite
parallels we explored other assemblages from further
away.
Three other areas where similar beads have been
discovered during roughly the same time period are
the Badarian of Upper Egypt, the Ubaid culture of
Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. Ties between Israel
and Egypt during this period are well established and
because it is geographically the closest we will discuss
this area first [21,46 and further references therein].
6. Parallels from Egypt
Brunton and Caton-Thompson [15] describe the pres-
ence of beads made of blue glazed frit, as well as steatite
in the Predynastic graves at Badari. The illustrations (Pl.
XLIX) mention both blue and green glaze. While there
seems to be some confusion with the terminology of the
beads, their attribution to the Badarian (i.e. second half
of 5th millennium BC) seems to be agreed upon. Glazed
steatite beads were also reported from Naqada (later
Predynastic). Apparently the earlier beads were only
glazed from the outside (which is also the case at
Peqi’in), while the later ones were also glazed inside. The
length of the Predynastic beads is 1.9–3.6 mm (Beck in
[15]). The earlier beads, dating to the fifth millennium
BC, seem to be blue glazed, while the later ones, dating
to the fourth millennium BC, are green glazed [17].
Tite and Bimson analyzed glazed steatite beads
from Egypt more recently [44]. Studying the chemical
composition of two beads from a Badarian girdle they
conclude that the beads are made of enstatite glazed
with an alkali, possibly natron, with high concentration
of copper oxide and magnesium oxide. Based on labora-
tory experiments, they conclude that the Badarian beads
were glazed using the cementation method. This could
have only been achieved using a fire hotter that 1000 (C
(this notion supports Beck’s who, based only on optical
observations, claimed that the Egyptian specimens of
glazed steatite had a vitreous glaze applied to their
surface and then fired; [12]).
Although the details of the manufacturing processes
of steatite beads from Egypt have not yet been eluci-
dated, the source of the beads from Peqi’in could be
from Egypt, as both the raw material and finished beads
are found there.
7. Parallels from Mesopotamia
Moorey stated that “The history of burnt steatite
in Mesopotamia is obscured by the absence of any
1
Faience is marked with a question mark in the caption to
Illustration 22.
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502 497
systematic study of beads from the region” [33].Weare
aware, though, of the presence of “minute glazed steatite
ring beads” at graves of the Ubaid period in Arpachiya
[32], of “chemically treated white steatite” at Nineveh 2,
3 and 4. Nineveh 2 and Arpachiya both date to the
Ubaid period, i.e. fifth millennium BC [12,33]. Unlike
Egypt, the color of the glaze is not discussed in these
sites, most probably because they appear to be white.
Yet another site is Tepe Gawra, where “white paste
beads are extremely common” from the Ubaid levels
[45].
Steatite artifacts appears in Mesopotamia in later
periods in Ur, Kish and Nineveh as well [12], but those
are not related to the current study.
Modern analyses on beads from Mesopotamia have
not been conducted, thus we cannot reliably assess this
area as being the source of the Peqi’in beads.
8. Parallels from the Indus Valley
Steatite as a raw material was first worked systemati-
cally in the Aceramic Neolithic of the Indus Valley; it
continued in the same tradition into the Indus Culture of
the Bronze Age at that region [14,48] and carries on to
this day [49]. Because of the abundance of the raw
material in Baluchistan and the northwestern part of the
Indian subcontinent [26,49] not much discussion is dedi-
cated to the geographic origin of the talc raw material,
nor is there discussion of the possibility for identifying a
precise source using chemical fingerprinting.
Glazed steatite beads are well known from the major
Indus Valley sites of Harappa, Mohenjo Daro and
Chanhu-Daro. Beck’s initial examination of beads from
Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa caused him to think that
the technique used for producing them in India was
dierent from that of Egypt, where three methods were
subsequently identified [44]. He determined that the seals
(steatite was used for the production of seals and other
artifacts, not just beads) that he examined were carved
out of steatite and then treated with an alkali and heated
[12].
Many of the steatite beads in the Indus Valley are
glazed, some are white, some are yellowish, and a few
have a tint of green/blue. Because the beads in Egypt
have a very clear blue and/or green coloring, we assume
that this was also the case in the Indus Valley sites (and
indeed in Peqi’in), and the lack of that color is given
several explanations. Most likely is that the green or
blue material (deriving from copper in the glaze)
“faded”, this being a result of poor preservation [12,41].
According to Bouquillon et al. [14, p. 535]: “We assume
therefore that the composition has been modified, but
only in part, by leaching processes which removed part
of the alkali and stabilizer elements of the glaze. Two
possibilities can be proposed for the almost complete
lack of copper: either it has been removed by water,
or the amount of this coloring agent was voluntarily
low .[14].
At Chanhu-Daro a mass of “extraordinarily small”
cylindrical beads were discovered in the doorway of a
bead maker’s house. Those were concreted together by
salt into a mass on a small copper dish, possibly a scale
pan, suggesting the beads were sold by weight [31].
Various experts who studied these beads could not
determine if they were made of steatite or of compressed
steatite powder, and whether the holes were a result of
squeezing a composition through an aperture or a solid
rod went through the beads. They do agree though
that “the beads are steatite that has been completely
dehydrated and heated to a temperature exceeding
1200 (C” [31]. Chanhu-Daro was undoubtedly one of
the sites in which steatite beads were manufactured as it
contains the waste products of this industry. Some of the
light yellow, dark gray and black blocks of steatite
found bear marks of the saw which had cut them. Some
of the smallest waste products were apparently ground
into powder and compressed into blocks from which
beads and other artifacts were made [31, pp. 209–210].
An additional group of beads at Chanhu-Daro was
found inside a small pottery jar [31, p. 212].
Two more hoards of “microbeads” (the size of which
is not given, D.B-Y.M.) were discovered in the 1970s at
the Harappan site of Zekhada, buried beneath floors of
houses [26]. Those were kept in pots containing fine ash,
and included an estimated 34,000 beads weighing a total
of 316 g. Here too, the analysis of the raw material
revealed it is made of cristobalite, enstatite and alumina,
and the author suggests that the initial talcose steatite
raw material was heated to 850 (C to produce this, and
that this increased its hardness from one to six on the
Mohs scale. The raw material was worked into a paste
and the soft beads baked. The hole would have been
obtained by inserting a 0.5 mm thick copper wire
through and at the end of the process a horsehair would
have been used to cut the beads [26].
The study of steatite beads from Mehrgarh, Pakistan,
is especially relevant to those of Peqi’in. It reveals that
steatite as raw material was used for the production of
beads beginning in the Aceramic Neolithic (Period I;
7000–5800 BC). It continued during the Ceramic
Neolithic (Period II; 5800–4500 BC) and into the
Chalcolithic (Period III; 4500–3800 BC) [8],
2
thus into
the age in which it is found also in the Near East: the
Badarian of Egypt, the Ubaid culture of Mesopotamia,
and indeed, the Chalcolithic of the Levant.
There are dierences both in the mode of production
and in the typology of the end product through the ages
in Mehrgarh: during the Aceramic Neolithic steatite was
2
No information is provided on whether the dates are calibrated or
not.
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502498
used for simple rock cut and it was worked into orna-
ments of various shapes. During the Chalcolithic, heat-
ing and glazing became an added step in the production.
However, there are also other interesting dierences
between the various levels of Mehrgarh. One is that the
relative frequency of steatite beads within the bead
assemblage increases with time (9% in period Ia, 39% in
Period Ib; 4% in period II and 93%, composed of 1936
beads in Period III) [8]. The other distinct change is
in the average dimensions of the beads. Period IB
(Aceramic Neolithic) of Mehrgarh the outer diameter is
2.4 mm; diameter of the hole is 1 mm; length 1.2 mm,
and in Period III, the outer diameter of the beads is 3.8
mm, diameter of the hole is 0.9 mm and the length of the
bead is 2.7 mm, strikingly similar to the beads in Peqi’in.
The shape is cylindrical, and the color is white with some
blue glaze, also as is the case in Peqi’in.
The biggest change in the use of steatite artifacts in
the later (Bronze Age) cultures of the Indus Valley is
that while the manufacturing techniques remain the
same, the variety of types increases (as opposed to just
cylindrical beads) [12,14]. There is a clear dierence in
composition between the glazing used in Mehrgarh,
where the main components are diopside and tridymite,
and that of the Badarian where the main component is
forsterite [14, p. 536].
To sum, the detailed studies on the Indus Valley
steatite bead industry provide us with information on
sources of raw materials, with a variety of possible
production techniques and with final products that
closely resembles the beads from Peqi’in.
9. Discussion and conclusions
Three synthetic materials for bead manufacturing are
now recognized, beginning in the fifth millennium BC:
glazed steatite, steatite faience and quartz faience [9].
The beads described above from Peqi’in are consistent
with steatite faience. All of the material from Peqi’in is
dated to the fifth millennium BC. However, dates from
other regions are not accurate enough to allow us to
follow the dispersal of this innovation (if indeed it
originates in a single region).
Several issues are of concern to us: the source of the
raw material and its implications on long-distance con-
tacts during this period, and the procedures involved in
the production of these beads and their significance for
Chalcolithic technology. The origin of the technology is
yet another aspect that will be touched upon.
This is the first documentation of Chalcolithic pyro-
technology applied for a purpose other than metallurgy
or ceramic heating. Such use of pyrotechnology may in
fact be part of an “experimental package” associated
with the emergence of metal production. This find
is thus of prime importance for both technological
innovations and long distance trade during this period.
According to Barthe´lemy de Saizieu and Bouquillon,
since enstatite and cristobalite are present in the white
beads of period IB (Aceramic Neolithic) in Mehrgarh,
this means a fire of at least 1100 (C was used for
production of beads, and it probably took place in a
kiln, although thus far a kiln directly related to bead
manufacturing, has not been discovered [8, pp. 51, 57;
14, pp. 534–535].
In the Near East, while we do not have a definite
date for the earliest fire [40] the earliest fire made for
production purposes, rather then just heat and cooking,
is probably from the production of lime plaster in
the PPNB as demonstrated at Yiftah’el and Kefar
Ha-Horesh [20,24]. Temperatures required for the
production of lime plaster is in the order of 800 (C[25].
Firing of pottery vessels did not start until the Pottery
Neolithic (sixth–fifth millennium BC) and that was
followed by the use of fire for copper metallurgy.
Bouquillon et al. [14, p. 537] do suggest a correlation
between these two major developments, but do not
discuss it. Hegde [26] points out that Harappan smiths
are known to have cast copper which melts at 1080 (C,
thus the artisans making beads would have been able to
raise the wood fire with the aid of forced air from a
bellows in order to obtain the heat necessary for baking
beads.
However, since currently we do not have any evidence
for on-site production of the glazed steatite beads
neither at Peqi’in nor at any other Chalcolithic site in the
Levant, and the raw material talc is not found in Israel,
we must assume that those were produced and obtained
elsewhere (the Neve Noy beads were found in the
vicinity of a furnace but apparently are not related to it;
Y. Baumgarten, personal communication). The mechan-
ism of obtaining such objects is most likely in some form
of exchange (gift giving being just one possibility of
many [29]) but its full exploration is beyond the scope of
this paper.
Long distance contacts between Chalcolithic popu-
lations of the Levant are well documented [20]. Various
finds from the Nile Valley are known [4,36,37]. Copper
from an Anatolian origin was recently discovered at
Nevatim and Abu Matar [22] and an even further away
origin has been proposed for the copper of the Nahal
Mishmar hoard [43]. Lapis lazuli (commonly known to
originate in Afghanistan [33]) was found both at the
Cave of the Treasure in Nahal Mishmar and at Byblos
[2,38].
The detailed technological aspects of the production
of the Peqi’in beads and their glazing are yet to be
studied. However, it is rather striking that the dimen-
sions of the beads in Peqi’in (averages: outer diameter
2.8 mm; inner diameter 1.0 mm; length 1.7 mm) re-
sembles most closely those of Period IB (Aceramic
Neolithic) and the Early Chalcolithic (4500–3800 BC) of
Mehrgarh in the Indus Valley. The similarity, thus, is in
D.E. Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 31 (2004) 493–502 499
the shape, size, color and raw material. It should be
noted that, at this point, comprehensive information is
available only from the Indus Valley sites and not from
Mesopotamia or Egypt.
The well documented connections between Egypt and
the Levant during the Chalcolithic period and the pres-
ence of steatite beads there, make Egypt a strong
candidate for being the source of the beads from Peqi’in.
A direct link between Peqi’in and Egypt is evident by the
presence of the Nilotic shell Aspatharia rubens at Peqi’in
(a possible reciprocal item of exchange?) [5], reinforcing
this notion. However, the discovery of other artifacts
from south Asia in other Chalcolithic sites (lapis lazuli)
make the Indus Valley an equally viable source for
steatite bead. Therefore, at this stage of the research we
propose that the source of the Peqi’in beads is either in
Egypt or the Indus Valley. Local production is also a
possibility that should not be dismissed, but there is no
evidence for it, and the raw material and technology
would have been brought from elsewhere.
The steatite beads found at Peqi’in are the first of
their kind to be identified as such in the Levant. If
indeed their source is in the Indus Valley, they can
clarify the route in which various exchange items
traveled from the Indus Valley to Mesopotamia, on
from there through the Levant and into Egypt. The site
of Peqi’in, thus, has an important role in interpreting
long distance relations in the Middle East of the fifth/
fourth millennium BC.
Finkenstaedt proposes that since there are many
more glazed steatite beads at Arpachiya and Tell Brak
(Mesopotamia) than in Badari (Egypt), their origin
should be where they are more numerous, i.e. in
Mesopotamia, and that they were diused by trade [17].
However, absolute numbers can be a function of
recovery techniques and therefore this is not a valid
argument. Yet another diculty is posed by the fact that
Barthe´lemy de Saizieu and Bouquillon [9] see dierences
in manufacturing procedures between the Egyptian and
Indus specimens. Therefore, a parallel development of
steatite-based beads in both Egypt and the Indus Valley
should also be considered.
It is unlikely that the technology for steatite paste was
taken from the Indus Valley while the raw material came
from another source, however, “.it is still believed that
steatite was the first material to be glazed and, despite
Harris’s advocacy of the introduction of glazing from
Mesopotamia [30, pp. 464–465]), no compelling new
evidence has been forthcoming to support such a
diusionist explanation” [34, p. 177].
To date, the only evidence for production centers is in
the Indus Valley and therefore we tend to assume that
this is where both the raw material and the end product
originated. But this question, of the origin and dispersal
of the beads and the technology is far from being
resolved [10]. Other cases of ambiguity during this
period regard that of copper and arsenic copper, where
the raw material apparently originated in Anatolia
and/or the Caucasus, but both end products (probably
from there) and local production centers are known in
Israel [43 and references therein].
The thorough investigation of steatite beads in the
Indus Valley over the last decade by Barthe´lemy de
Saizieu and Bouquillon and by Vidale is thus far
unparalleled in other areas. Similar investigations into
the character of the beads found outside this area will
enable us to interpret the degree of relations between the
Indus Valley, Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt.
Precise and accurate dating of 5th and 4th millennium
sites in these regions may help to locate the area in which
this technology originated and its dispersal to the other
regions.
10. Final remarks
In view of the well documented long distance contacts
between Chalcolithic populations of the Levant, the
presence of steatite beads, from an as-yet undefined
source, should not come as a surprise. Another interest-
ing aspect of these beads is the fact that the steatite
beads were found mainly in funerary contexts in all of
these regions. Their value may have thus gone beyond
mere decoration: they may have had a symbolic value
attributed to death.
Several topics this paper touches upon deserve further
exploration: one is the detailed reconstruction of the
production processes of the beads, another is the con-
dition of preservation that dictates their color. We
intend to pursue these topics in future research.
Acknowledgements
We wish to thank Ofer Bar-Yosef, Richard Meadow
and Elizabeth Friedman for commenting on previous
versions of this manuscript. Our thanks also go to three
anonymous reviewers. D.B-Y.M. benefited from dis-
cussions with Heidi Miller, Yaacov Baumgarten and
Isaac Gilead. Thanks to Meg Lynch for editorial assist-
ance. This research was carried out as part of the Israel
Antiquity Authority’s salvage project at Peqi’in and with
the assistance of the American School of Prehistoric
Research at the Peabody Museum, Harvard University.
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... heir eye-catching designs and forms. Contrary to popular belief, it is considered that beads that are ignored in terms of their aspect of understanding the past and society and are usually defined as ornaments or jewellery are not just objects that make a visual impact. Moreover, they have an major potential in understanding the past and societies (Bar-Yosef Mayer et. al., 2004;Baysal, E. and Miller, 2016). New studies and analyses on beads, which are defined as small finds, pierced objects, or centrally pierced coloured ornaments in the literature, provide significant clues about the production technologies and raw material sources of these finds and what they mean (Bednarik, 2015;Damick andWoodworth, 2015, Pe ...
... d in various parts of the Near East since the 5th millennium BC (Pickard and Schoop, 2013). However, as the researchers emphasize, there are many issues, from the supply of the raw material required for the production of beads to production technologies and from its place in trade relations to its intended uses, which have not been fully clarified (Bar-Yosef Mayer et. al., 2004;Baysal, E. 2015b;Damick and Woodworth, 2015). In this study, steatite beads, which numerically constitute the largest group of the bead collection found in İnönü Cave, will be introduced, and the bead production stages obtained as a result of the analyses and examinations performed on these beads will be emphasized. ...
... tant clues for understanding cultural and commercial relations. For example, due to the absence of steatite in the region for the production of beads made of steatite belonging to the Chalcolithic Age found in the Peqi"in Cave, it is considered that this raw material points to Turkey's relations with its southeast, Northern Mesopotamia and Egypt ( Bar-Yosef Mayer et. al. ,2004). Pickard and Schoop indicated that the steatite used in the production of beads belonging to the Late Chalcolithic Age found in Çamlıbel Tarlası was obtained from local sources (Pickard and Schoop 2013). The raw material of the steatite beads in İnönü Cave is found abundantly in the river sediments located near the cave, on the coastlin ...
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During the excavations conducted at level V of İnönü Cave, which is located on the western Black Sea coast of Anatolia, 10.198 beads were found in a small pot above the bedrock. While 93 of the beads, the vast majority of which were produced from steatite, were produced from agate, 27 of them were produced from gold, 1 of them was produced from electrum, and 1 of them was produced from radiolarite. C14 analyses that were performed to obtain the absolute dates of this level, which bears the traces of the first settlers of the cave, and to date this group of finds, revealed that this level belonged to the last quarter of the 5th millennium BC (cal. 4260-3976 BC). The SEM-EDS analyses of 7 beads selected from among the steatite beads in İnönü Cave were performed to understand steatite bead production techniques in the Chalcolithic Age. Furthermore, their detailed images were obtained with a polarization microscope. These studies revealed that steatite beads consisted of two sections, including the inner main body/core and the section covering the outer part of the bead, and produced by heat treatment. Based on these data, beads were attempted to be experimentally produced in the laboratory environment. The definition, analogical and chronological evaluation of these steatite beads and SEM-EDS analyses and experimental practices are comprehensively presented in this study.
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... While, the gorara variety mined from Rajasthan and Central India is mottled and available in a range of colors such as rich yellow, brown, pink, green, deep purple, and black (Tara 2014). An array of characterization techniques such as inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES), inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS), laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS), laser ablation time of flight inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-TOF-ICP-MS), neutron activation analysis (INAA), particle induced X-ray emission (PIXE), particle induced gamma ray emission (PIGE), atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS), Mössbauer spectroscopy, energy dispersive energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF), X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), visible near infrared reflectance spectrometry, optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) surface area, Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy (FTIR), Raman spectroscopy, petrography, color and texture were extensively used for compositional analysis of steatite (Bar-Yosef Mayer et al. 2004;Baron et al. 2016;Damick and Woodworth 2015;Eliyahu Behar et al. 2016;Ige and Swanson 2008;Jones et al. 2007;Olabanji et al. 1991;Olabanji et al. 1990;Reynard et al. 2008;Rodrigues and Lima 2012;Santi et al. 2009;Torres et al. 2015). ...
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A fragmentarily preserved Byzantine icon made of steatite was discovered in 2015 during regular excavations in Chełm, eastern Poland. Identified as the left wing of a diptych illustrating the Twelve Great Feasts and created at the close of the 12 th century, the find is one of the most important and beautiful Byzantine artefacts to have been found in Poland. The icon was uncovered within the confines of the palace complex which was created by Daniel (Danylo) Romanovych († 1264) in Chełm in the second quarter of 13 th century. The icon, even though it was found within the borders of what is now Poland, is material evidence of contact between Byzantium and the social elite of the Galicia-Volhynia lands, rather than with the Polish Piasts. In this paper we concentrated on the presentation of the archaeological context of the find, which made it possible to establish that the icon arrived Chełm before the middle of the 13 th century ( terminus ante quem 1253), and especially on petrographic and traceological analyses of the icon. Assuming that greenish plaques were indeed the most characteristic steatite icon type, a decision was made to examine, apart from the Chełm artefact made from white rock, a greenish icon from the National Museum in Krakow as well. Petrographic analyses were based on optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM-EDS) and X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD). Both icons were carved in steatite i. e. talc rich rock but their chemical compositions indicate the presence of other components. Artifact from Chełm is white. Porous, enriched in potassium (K) and locally blistering outer rim of the icon from Chełm was formed probably during the fire event. Presence of forsterite and subordinate amount of leucite also indicate high temperature influence. Local enrichment in calcium (Ca) is related to exchange reactions with ground compounds. Accumulation of different components on the surface of the icon’s surface was noted. The icon from the National Museum in Krakow is greenish probably because of the presence of chlorite. The results of the traceological analysis (icon from National Museum in Krakow was not analysed) indicate that the icon found in Chełm was created most likely by a skilled and experienced carver with access to the high-quality magnifying glass and specialist tools required for rendering minuscule objects and their details. The production of the icon also involved the use of a “mechanical” tool, probably a kind of a miller with a rotating polishing head, which also seems to point to a specialist workshop. The use-wear traces observed on artefact are limited to polish resulting from prolonged contact with human hands or storing the icon in a leather case. Most of the extant Byzantine icons are unprovenanced objects held in museum collections or church treasuries. Therefore, as the icon presented in this paper was discovered during archaeological excavations, it ranks among the few Byzantine artefacts to have been found outside of this realm. The petrographic and traceological analyses conducted are the first published natural science contributions to the study of Byzantine steatite icons and we hope they will provide the impetus for undertaking such research on other Byzantine finds, helping to develop Byzantine archaeology further.
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Glas ist das erste von menschen hergestellte Material, das nicht in der Natur vorkommt. Als Endprodukt eines komplexen Herstellungsprozesses hat Glas auch keine Ähnlichkeit mit den Ausgangsmaterialien. Glas wird in der Bronzezeit im östlichen Mittelmeerraum erfunden und als künstlicher Edelstein u.a. für prachtvolle Schmuckgegenstände, Architekturelemente und Gefäße genutzt. Auch wenn Glas nur an wenigen Orten hergestellt wird, finden Glasobjekte bis nach Südskandinavien Verbreitung, ihre außergewöhnliche Farbigkeit, der Glanz und die rätselhafte Herstellung werden mit magischen Eigenschaften in Verbindung gebracht. Im Gegensatz zur Produktion von Rohglas kann vorhandenes Glas aber verhältnismäßig einfach umgeschmolzen werden und wird von verschiedenen Gesellschaften als schmelzbarer Edelstein adaptiert. Entscheidende Durchbrüche in der Geschichte des Glases sind die Erfindung des Glasblasens im 1. Jh. n. Chr., die in Kombination mit der Logistik des römischen Imperiums Glas in die Alltagskultur eindringen lässt, sowie die Entwicklung neuer Glasrezepturen, die es ab der Spätantike möglich macht, erstmals auch Rohglas außerhalb des östlichen Mittelmeers herzustellen.
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Greiff S, Kronz A, Schlütter F, Prange M (2016) (Hrsg.) Archäometrie und Denkmalpflge 2016. Jahrestagung an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen. 28. September – 1. Oktober 2016. Metalla Sonderheft 8, 240 S.
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Humans’ transition from a foraging economy to agriculture in the Neolithic of the Levant brought with it the first use of stone beads. These came in many colours and shapes, with a variety of green minerals dominating. Beads in white, red, yellow, brown, and black colours had been used previously, thus the occurrence of green beads was related to the onset of agriculture. Subsequently they were used as amulets to ward off the evil eye and as fertility charms. A synthesis of personal ornaments of the Chalcolithic period provides insight into the possible ways in which the society of agro-pastoralists used to decorate itself. The study of ornaments, their raw materials, and colours informs us on possible belief systems, at the time of religion formation. Their spatial distribution testified for economic ties of the period.
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The Levant and Egypt are often considered as separate areas of academic specialization, a tendency which imposes artificial borders on knowledge and approach. It is as well to remember that they are geographically linked, the same Mediterranean Sea laps the shores of both, the land masses are continuous with only an arid region and the modern tags of Africa and Asia to separate them. The actual distance from the Eastern Delta to south Palestine is c . 200 km; by sea from the Eastern Delta to Byblos direct is c . 450 km.; and for a boat hugging the coast, perhaps 500 km. By contrast, to sail down the Nile fronl the vicinity of ancient Naqada to the edges of the Eastern Delta is around 800 kill. Such a navigable river at home was a good training ground for boat travel for the Egyptians, though sea and river conditions obviously differ greatly.
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