A perfectly preserved gold bead from the time of the First Temple was found by a 9-year-old Jerusalem boy during an archaeological project. The boy, whose name is Binyamin Milt, found the bead in August while looking through dirt from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount during the Temple Mount Sifting Project (TMSP).
The granule bead was so well preserved that the supervising archaeologist of the project first thought that it was from modern times. The bead was small and cylindrical with a hole in the center. It had four layers of small gold balls that were put together in a flower-shape. The entire bead measured just 6 millimeters in diameter and 4 millimeters in height.
It was only after Dr. Gabriel Barkay analyzed the findings from the dig that he realized the bead looked quite similar to other objects that he had previously discovered when he was excavating burial systems from the First Temple era in Katef Hinom. The only difference between the bead that Binyamin found and the ones that were unearthed by Dr. Barkay was that the ones the doctor found were made from silver.
Based on the fact that numerous other similar-looking beads that were unearthed at other locations in Israel date back to the Iron Age (between the 12th and 6th centuries BC), it’s safe to assume that the one the boy found was also from that same time period. Several gold beads were previously discovered in Megiddo, Tel el-Ajjul and Tel el-Farah that all dated back to between the 12th and 9th centuries BC.
It’s actually quite rare to find gold jewelry from the First Temple Era because gold hadn’t been refined so the majority of the jewelry created back then was made with silver. Beads from that time period were manufactured by a technique called granulation which required the goldsmith to be extremely precise and experienced with that type of fine work.
Granulation is a technique where the goldsmith would attach gold or silver balls (called granules) to each other or to a small piece of metal. The granules get their round shape from small pieces of metal being melted on a bed of charcoal or charcoal powder.
As for what the bead was used for, it’s still unclear, although it has been speculated that an important member of society or even a priest wore the bead as part of an ornament or a pendant on a necklace. In ancient times, some beads were used in burial offerings to keep away evil spirits as well as in jewelry as pendants, bracelets, and tiaras, in addition to being ornaments on belts and clothing fringes. They were also used in amulets, pins, stamps, spinning whorls, and weights.
More information will be released in a publication once the experts finish analyzing all of the items found during the project. Pictures of the rare gold bead can be seen here.