High Above the Dead Sea In 1961 - Now On Display
16 March, 2014
MessageToEagle.com - Back in 1961, a team of Israeli archaeologists was looking for Dead Sea scrolls. Instead, they unexpectedly discovered the striking double ibex and the rest of the hoard now known as the "Cave of the Treasure."
Someone wrapped 429 ancient relics in a straw mat and hid them in a remote cave of one - nearly inaccessible - steep sides of Wadi Mishmar, in the Judean Desert.
These valuable items - one of the greatest prehistoric treasure troves that have ever been discovered - remained concealed until 1961 archaeological dig.
Wrapped 429 ancient relics in a straw mat and hid them in an inaccessible cave in the Judean Desert.
"The diggers, who were bivouacked in army tents on a plateau above the riverbed, had roped down the perilous cliff face into the cave mouth. Deep in the cave, a large boulder blocked the way. They pried it out and watched as it plunged 100 yards to the floor of the riverbed," wrote The Times Of Israel .
The removal of the large boulder had allowed the team to reach the back of the cave.
"The hoard, much of which is on display in a glass case in one of the prehistory galleries at the Israel Museum, includes scepters, statuettes, horn-shaped pieces of carved ivory pocked with dozens of round holes, copper orbs and other mysterious items whose purpose has been lost to time."
Among the precious artifacts hidden in the cave, there was the world's oldest crown dated more than 6,000 years. The artifact is on display for the first time in America. It is believed the crown played a part in burial ceremonies for people of importance at the time.
" A blackened crown ringed with protruding symbols and painted ossuaries of breathtaking formal inventiveness: these and other artifacts from Nahal Mishmar and Peqi’in will be joined by bone, stone, and clay figurines, basalt stands with human faces, clay goblets and bowls, and fragments of mats, leather, and textiles found in the Golan Plateau, the Coastal Plain, Beersheba Valley, and the Jordan Valley.
"Large wall paintings will provide context by depicting the period’s rituals."
The world's oldest crown: This headpiece dating back to the Copper Age between 4000-3300 B.C. was found in a remote cave in the Judaean Desert in Israel in 1961
Moment of discovery: Pessah Bar-Adon from the Israel Department of Antiquities pictured in the so-called "Cave of the Treasure" in the Judaean Desert in Israel shortly after discovering the hoard of items from the Copper Age in 1961
“To the modern eye, it is stunning to see how these groups of people, already mastering so many new social systems and technologies, still had the ability to create objects of enduring artistic interest,” says Jennifer Y. Chi, ISAW Exhibitions Director and Chief Curator.
It was during the Copper Age that people in the Southern Levant discovered not only how to make implements and ritual objects out of copper, but also began to organize hierarchically and glean secondary products like milk and wool from flocks and herds.
The Chalcolithic trove showed an advanced local civilization that could import copper and create sophisticated artwork. Courtesy of the Israel Museum.
"Two clay statues of gods, modeled with a liveliness, confidence, and sensuousness still resonant across five millennia, are encountered upon entering the Focus Gallery. Although they are very different in form, archeologists have established that they are a pair.
"One, dubbed the “Lady of Gilat” for its origins in the Negev, is a libation vessel in the form of a woman seated erectly upon a birth stool, her breasts no more than tiny cones, her pubic hair sketched in dashed-off grooves, her genitalia swollen, and her abdomen extended.
Beautiful double ibex discovered in the Judean Desert in 1961
Standard, early 4th millennium B.C.; Chalcolithic period Levant, Nahal Mishmar, Copper alloy; L. 7 1/4 in. (18.5 cm). Lent by Israel Antiquities Authority (L.1994.74.6)
"With one hand, she balances a churn on her head; in the crook of her other arm, a drinking vessel. The second statue, the “Ram of Gilat,” depicts a realistically sculpted ram carrying three drinking vessels nearly as large as itself.
"The people of Chalcolithic period were the first to exploit the secondary benefits of animals, and the maker of the Ram of Gilat clearly saw the animal as more than a source of meat, but as a symbol of strength and virility. Red paint animates the surfaces of both statues, crisscrossing the goddess figure in bands and adorning the god figure in triangular patterns and stripes.
For use in funerals: An ossuary with painted and sculpted facial features, pictured left, and a painted anthropomorphic ossuary with sculpted nose, stamped eyes, and gaping mouth, pictured right
"To either side of the Lady and Ram of Gilat is full array of Copper Age figurine types—female and male people/gods and animals; made of stone, ivory, bone, clay, mother-of-pearl, and basalt; and conceived in three dimensional or flat/slab-like forms.
Other discoveries: Among the other items discovered in the cave was a libation vessel in the shape of a woman carrying a churn, pictured left, and a fenestrated stand with three bowls and sculpted motifs, pictured right
A libation vessel in the shape of a Ram carrying cornets.
"The later ranges from powerfully abstracted ‘violin’ figures to more anatomically correct figures.
“The fascinating thing about this period is that a burst of innovation defined the technologies of the ancient world for thousand of years,” notes Dr. Master.
Around 150 ancient relics from the collection can be seen at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World as part of the 'Masters of Fire: Copper Age Art from Israel' exhibit which runs until June 8.
The purpose of the hoard remains a mystery.
However, according to scholars, the key to understanding the trove, might lie eight kilometers to the north, at the desert oasis of Ein Gedi, where archaeologists have uncovered a Chalcolithic-era temple.
The temple priests spirited their ritual objects from the sanctuary at a time of danger and hid them in a place where they thought they would never be found.