A new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science has found an increase in lead poisoning in people living in the Levant in the Iron Age. Scholars analyzed 41 teeth from 31 individuals who lived from 1200 BC to 331 BC; the remains came from burial sites across modern-day Israel, including Abel Beth Maacah and Megiddo in the north and Tel es-Safi/Gath in the south. They found that nine of the 31 individuals had levels of lead in their teeth that were 25 times higher than a baseline established from local Neolithic people who lived before metallurgy was widespread. These levels would not have been high enough to induce the effects of lead poisoning, and are lower than levels in the Roman-era, which were 100 times higher. The studies authors suggest that the increased lead levels may have been a result of smelting and casting metals at nearby workshops, as well as the increase in metal trading. While the study presents an interesting analysis of lead poisoning in ancient people, it must be cautioned that this small sample size may not be entirely representative of the entire Iron Age population in the Levant.
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