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According to a new theory put forward by researchers from Hebrew University and Haifa University, several ancient caches of silver appear to be deliberate attempts to counterfeit silver.  Scholars chemically analyzed Iron-Age caches of silver from different locations in the Levant, including Beit She’an, Megiddo and Ashkelon, and discovered that they have low quantities of actual silver and  contain high quantities of copper, mixed with arsenic to make them look shiny, like silver.  Before coinage was invented, people would weigh out pieces of silver to pay for things.  Thus, Abraham purchased the field and cave of cave of Machpelah in which to bury his wife Sarah for 400 shekels of silver (Gen. 23:16).  Caches of silver pieces (proto-currency) from before 1900 BC were found to have 100% silver content.  However, the caches from the southern Levant that date from 1200-950 BC were found to have up to 80% copper content, mixed with arsenic, and only a small amount of actual silver.  The authors of the study suggest that the attempt to give these metal fragments the appearance of silver was a deliberate attempt at forgery.  They theorize that broken trade routes from places, such as Turkey, Greece, and Spain led to a lack of silver in the area during the Iron Age, and that forgers used copper from the Timna mines to essentially “counterfeit money.”


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