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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:3, Fall 2023

World Wonders: Nahal Mishmar Hoard

The Nahal Mishmar hoard is one of the most mysterious prehistoric discoveries from the southern Levant. Dating to the Chalcolithic period (c. 4500–3300 BCE), the hoard contained more than 400 finely crafted objects made mostly of copper, including scepters, mace heads, and crown-shaped pieces. Archaeologists discovered the hoard in 1961 as they were surveying the western shore of the Dead Sea. It was wrapped in a straw mat in a nearly inaccessible cave above the Nahal Mishmar stream bed.

Although the hoard showcases the skilled craftsmanship of the region’s prehistoric peoples, its purpose remains a mystery. Theories abound regarding its origin, function, and deposition in the cave. Some scholars think the objects were originally used during rituals at the nearby Chalcolithic temple of Ein Gedi and were then brought to the cave for burial once they were no longer in use.

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