A treasure of ancient gold and silver jewellery hidden inside an Iron Age clay vessel has been discovered at Tel Megiddo, a rich archaeological site in the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel.

This basket-shaped gold earring (R) was found well-hidden inside a clay vessel (L) during an excavation at Tel Megiddo in Israel. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)
This basket-shaped gold earring (R) was found well-hidden inside a clay vessel (L) during an excavation at Tel Megiddo in Israel. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)

Archaeologists at Tel Aviv University found the collection of gold, silver and bronze jewellery wrapped in fabric and hidden in the vessel, according to American Friends of Tel Aviv University (AFTAU), a group facilitating the cause of higher education in Israel.

Found at the ruins of a domestic settlement at Megiddo, which has multiple layers of remains of ancient settlements, the clay vessel dates back to Iron Age I, around 1100 BC, and was excavated in 2010.

"This vessel was actually excavated during the 2010 season, but remained uncleaned while waiting for a molecular analysis of its content (soil). When it was finally emptied during the summer of 2011, the pieces of jewellery appeared," archaeologists of The Megiddo Expedition said in a statement.

Mystery Behind Origin of Jewellery

Researchers believe that the way the ornaments were well preserved points towards mysterious circumstances, and that a clay pot could not have been the normal storage place for jewellery. It's likely that the possessor was forced to flee the house and before leaving, he/she wrapped the jewellery first and, hid it in the vessel but could not collect it later.

"It's clear that people tried to hide the collection, and for some reason they were unable to come back to pick it up," Professor Finkelstein at Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures of Tel Aviv University, told AFTAU.

The Egyptian Connection

The jewellery comprising a ring, various moon-shaped earrings, and beads made of carnelian stone, which was commonly used for making jewellery in Egypt around 11th century BC, are believed to have some "strong" connections with nearby Egypt, said the researchers.

Four pair of moon-shaped gold earrings were also found in the vessel. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)
Four pair of moon-shaped gold earrings were also found in the vessel. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)

"Some of the materials and designs featured in the jewellery, including beads made from carnelian stone, are consistent with Egyptian designs from the same period," Ph D candidate and the excavation area supervisor Eran Arie said.

Besides, the site where the jewellery was found has been dated to 1100 BC, when the Egyptian rule in Tel Megiddo had just ended.

"Either the jewellery was left behind in the Egyptian withdrawal or the people who owned the jewellery were influenced by Egyptian culture," he added.

Archaeologists at The Megiddo Expedition have sent the collection and the fabric in which the jewellery was wrapped for further analysis and carbon data testing, hoping to determine their actual origins.

Beads made of carnelian stone and a gold ring are among the ancient treasure discovered at Tel Megiddo. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)
Beads made of carnelian stone and a gold ring are among the ancient treasure discovered at Tel Megiddo. (Photo: The Megiddo Expedition)