According to a new study in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the silver of several hoards found in the southern Levant was likely used as currency in the Middle Bronze III period and Late Bronze Age. Twenty-eight pieces of metal from four silver hoards discovered at Gezer, Megiddo, Shiloh, and Tell el-‘Ajjul were analyzed. While silver discovered in archaeological excavation cannot automatically be considered currency, the authors of the study suggest that the pieces of silver they analyzed were used as a means of exchange before the invention of money. They base this conclusion on the facts that the hoards in question were not found with silversmith tools and that most of the silver pieces were bent or broken, suggesting they were being kept for their intrinsic value. Pieces like these are often designated with the term "Hacksilber," which is derived from a German word describing silver that has been hacked into pieces of specific weights. The authors of the study also analyzed the isotopes of the silver and determined that most of the silver originated in Anatolia, and likely came to the southern Levant via trade networks. According to the Bible, silver pieces were weighed out and exchanged as payment even earlier than the MB III period, as Abraham purchased a field from Ephron the Hittite for “four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants” (Gn 23:16; ESV).
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