The ground stone assemblage of a metal workers community: An unexplored dimension of Iron Age copper production at Timna
The systematic archaeological study of the Timna Valley began over 50 years ago. Since then it has become a key site for understanding ancient copper production technologies in the Near East and beyond. However, the fantastic quantity of ground stone tools which are present at the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age copper smelting sites were never systematically studied. Questions regarding their origin, distribution, typologies, and especially their role within the chaîne opératoire of copper production, were seldom addressed. Although surprising, this has been the case for almost all of the excavated metal production sites around the world.
In the framework of the renewed excavations at several of the copper smelting sites at Timna, a pioneering study was conducted in which more than 1000 ground stone tools were identified and registered. These tools include, among others, grinding stones, pounders, anvils and mortars; most were manufactured of compacted sandstone and granite, exposed in several locations in the valley. In this paper we present a typology and quantitative analysis of the ground stone tools which were used by the metal workers, and offer an interpretation of how the various types of tools were employed as part of the copper production process. This provides new insights regarding the smelting process and the conditions needed for its successful outcome.
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