Metal Implements and Tool Marks from the Levantine Second Millennium BC

Posted in: AIAR, ASOR, Bronze Age, Iron Age
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Blackwell-NicholasBy: Nicholas Blackwell, Bryn Mawr College, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, AIAR Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellow

The primary purpose of my Spring 2012 fellowship at the Albright Institute was to compile an extensive dataset of metal tools from the Levantine second millennium BC. This research began to round out the previously-incomplete Levantine category of a tool database assembled for my dissertation on Middle and Late Bronze Age metal tools from the Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia (Bryn Mawr College, 2011). Furthering this study through reading excavation reports from Syro-Palestinian sites and visiting museums in Israel, I was able to add a considerable number of tools to my database. The updated data has proven useful by 1) revealing patterns of tool distributions and regional preferences within the Levant, and 2) providing some context and comparison for implement types and trends in the broader Mediterranean and Anatolian worlds. The result is a more informed investigation of cross-regional interaction as indicated by tool choices and depositional practices.

Implements for wood and/or stone-working are the favored tool types in the Levant, as is the case for the Aegean, Cyprus, and Anatolia. Single or flat axes, shaft-hole axes, and chisels are typical implements found in Syria-Palestine and have an affinity with some Anatolian and Cypriot tool assemblages. For instance, single/flat axes are consistently preferred during the Levantine and Cypriot MBA, yet the frequency of this ax decreases on LBA Cyprus while the inclination for it remains strong in Syria-Palestine. Socketed chisels and lugged/trunnion axes are attested in the LBA Levant but are more ubiquitous in Anatolian tool collections. Presently, my database consists of 5,614 tools with 685 Levantine examples. This aggregation will undoubtedly increase as my research continues. In the coming years, I intend to publish my research on metal tools as two monographs: the first dedicated to the Aegean, and the second focusing on the material from Anatolia, Cyprus, and the Levant.

I was able to pursue several other tool-related topics during my fellowship. My exposure to Syro-Palestinian archaeology has laid the foundation for studying a specialized drill, one with a hollow or tubular bit, in the Levantine Bronze and Early Iron Ages. At the Albright, I prepared an article titled: “The Making of the Mycenae Lion Gate Relief: Tool Marks and Foreign Influence.” This study documents the role of the tubular drill in manufacturing the monumental sculpture and explores whether Hittite stone-working practices were adopted in Greece. Though documented in the Aegean and Anatolia, the tubular drill and its importance in the Levant (e.g., at Alalakh and Hazor) have not been appreciated in their entirety. The implement’s use continued into the Levantine Early Iron Age, in contrast to its decline in the Aegean. I plan to assess the full trajectory of the tubular drill in Syria-Palestine and its potential connections to stone-cutting techniques in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the Aegean. With the ECA fellowship, consideration was also given to tools found in second millennium metal hoards from the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean. A salient feature of such assemblages is the presence of implements and, occasionally, tool kits. The value of tools in metal hoards has been overlooked, particularly when large caches contain a diverse set of objects. The persistent inclusion of tools in assemblages necessitates a more nuanced and critical investigation—research that I will continue to investigate.

My time at the Albright was fruitful in expanding my knowledge of the Levant’s metal implements and of the region’s potential tool and technological connections with Anatolia, Cyprus, and even the Aegean.


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