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Copper-Smelting Furnace Found in Negev Desert

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Israel Copper WorkshopTEL AVIV, ISRAEL—According to a statement released by Tel Aviv University, a 6,500-year-old copper-working site complete with a furnace has been discovered in Beer Sheva by a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Talia Abulafia of the Israel Antiquities Authority said a lot of copper slag was found at the site, along with traces of the furnace where the copper ore was smelted at a high temperature. “Tossing lumps of ore into a fire will get you nowhere. You need certain knowledge for building special furnaces that can reach very high temperatures while maintaining low levels of oxygen,” explained Erez Ben-Yosef of Tel Aviv University. Analysis of ore from the site indicates it originated at Wadi Faynan, which is located in Jordan, more than 60 miles away. The study also suggests that each copper workshop in the area followed its own “secret recipe” to produce high-status or ritual goods with the shiny metal. To read about Mesoamerican copper-smelting technology beginning around A.D. 700, go to "The Means of Production."

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