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1,600-Year-Old Gold Bead Unearthed in Jerusalem in ‘Very, Very Special’ Find

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An ancient gold bead that was discovered during excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the City of David in Jerusalem. Photo: Koby Harati/City of David

A gold bead dating back to at least the 5th century has been unearthed in the City of David in Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday, in a find that has been described as “very, very special.”

The bead was crafted using unique and delicate workmanship, which saw multiple small gold balls affixed together in a ring pattern. It was nestled in dirt removed from a Roman structure uncovered in the excavation of the Pilgrimage Road, a roughly 2,000-year-old pathway in the City of David that is believed to have been used to ascend to the Second Temple.

Hallel Feidman, an 18-year-old volunteer who was sifting when she spotted the bead, recalled using a sieve to “wash the material that was brought from the excavations in the City of David.”

“I saw something shiny in the corner of the sieve, different, that I don’t normally see,” Feidman said. “I immediately approached the archaeologist and he confirmed that I found a gold bead. Everyone here was very excited.”

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Dr. Amir Golani, a jewellery expert with the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the find was remarkable. “Throughout all my years in archaeology, I have found gold perhaps once or twice, so to find gold jewellery, is something very, very special.”

The bead is likely part of a necklace or bracelet that required additional beads, he noted. “Whoever could afford a piece like this made from gold, was an affluent person, with means.”

The structure where it was found — measuring at least 25 meters long, and containing decorated mosaic floors and imported clay vessels — also indicates wealth.

“The most interesting aspect of the bead is its unique and complex production method,” said Golani, with the technique used in its making likely emerging some 4,500 years ago in the Mesopotamia region.

“A good understanding of the materials and their properties is required, as well as control over the heat, in order to on the one hand, solder the tiny balls together to create a tiny ring, while also preventing overheating which may lead all the gold to melt,” he explained. “Only a professional craftsman could produce such a bead, which is another reason that this find holds great value.”

It is one of just a few dozen gold beads that were discovered in Israel to date.

“Even with today’s advanced technology, creating something like this would be very complex,” said Eli Escusido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “A close examination of this object fills one with a deep sense of admiration for the technical skill and ability of those who came before us many centuries ago.”

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