An ancient solid gold necklace fragment found in Israel could have belonged to a wealthy family at the time of the Roman occupation.
Experts in Jerusalem say the treasure probably belonged to a local noble 1,600 years ago.
The necklace segment is made up of two rows of solid gold beads soldered together to form a double circle.
The necklace was unearthed at the City of David archaeological site by a teenage volunteer, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).
The archaeological site is said to be the original location of the core of the city of Jerusalem, dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the IAA on Wednesday, 7th February, saying: “A rare gold bead from the end of the Roman era was uncovered within the Israel Antiquities Authority excavation of the Pilgrimage Road in the City of David, part of the Jerusalem Walls National Park.
“The gold bead, which was discovered by a volunteer, is handmade in a delicate and complicated process.”
The statement also quotes researchers as saying: “Whoever wore it was certainly affluent.”
The jewellery was found in earth removed from a substantial Roman mansion, thought to have been the home of a wealthy family.
The IAA explained: “The bead was found in dirt removed from a grandiose Roman structure discovered in the Pilgrimage Road Excavation.
“It was created using a unique technique that required delicate workmanship to affix tens of tiny balls together in the shape of a ring in order to create one small bead.”
The discovery was made by Hallel Feidman, 18, from Bnei Ayish, a “National Service volunteer who is working at the sifting project”.
She said: “I poured the pail onto the sieve and began to wash the material that was brought from the excavations in the City of David.”
She added: “And then I saw something shiny in the corner of the sieve, different, that I don’t normally see. I immediately approached the archaeologist and he confirmed that I found a gold bead. Everyone here was very excited.”
Dr Amir Golani, an ancient jewellery expert at the IAA, said: “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 experts said that the bead, which survived unscathed, was probably only a small part of a necklace or bracelet that included additional beads.
He added: “Whoever could afford a piece like this made from gold, was an affluent person, with means.”
Shlomo Greenberg and Ari Levy, Excavation Directors on behalf of the Israel Antiques Authority, said: “The bead originated in a grandiose structure which is at least 25 metres long.
“The structure was built on the Pilgrimage Road in the City of David, in a building style that characterises upscale buildings.
“The wealth of the building’s occupants is evidenced by additional finds that were discovered in it, like imported clay vessels and a decorated mosaic floor.”
The statement added: “The researchers point out that it is possible that the bead was created in a period that precedes the period of the structure in which it was found, however, it is reasonable to assume that the people that lived in the structure used the bead which may have accidentally been lost when the necklace broke.
“The find holds distinctive importance due to the lack of gold items found in archaeological excavations, and because beads of this style are not common, due to the unique and complex technique used to create them. The technique most probably originates from the region of Mesopotamia, where it was known from approximately 4,500 years ago.”
Dr Golani said: “The most interesting aspect of the bead is its unique and complex production method”
He added: “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.”
Dr Golani also said: “Only a professional craftsman could produce such a bead, which is another reason that this find holds great value.”
The statement continued: “The use of the unique technique which came from outside of Israel, coupled with the use of gold in creating this bead, speaks to the wealth of its owner. It is possible that the bead was created in a different area and made its way to the City of David due to the extensive trade relations between Jerusalem and other regions at that time.
“Another theory is that the bead was gifted to a Jerusalem resident, or, possibly due to its unique nature, the bead was passed within the family from one generation to another as an inheritance.
“Similar beads have been discovered in burial caves from 2,500 years ago (end of the First Temple period) in Ketef Hinnom near the City of David, during excavations carried out by Professor Gabriel Barkay, but even those beads were made from silver. To this day, only a few dozen gold beads have been found in Israel. “
Eli Escusido, Director of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “Although it is a tiny find, it is precisely the personal, day-to-day items that manage to touch and connect us more than anything else, directly, to a certain person.
“Even with today’s advanced technology, creating something like this would be very complex.
“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.”