The Earliest Lead Object in the Levant

PLoS One. 2015 Dec 2;10(12):e0142948. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142948. eCollection 2015.


In the deepest section of a large complex cave in the northern Negev desert, Israel, a bi-conical lead object was found logged onto a wooden shaft. Associated material remains and radiocarbon dating of the shaft place the object within the Late Chalcolithic period, at the late 5th millennium BCE. Based on chemical and lead isotope analysis, we show that this unique object was made of almost pure metallic lead, likely smelted from lead ores originating in the Taurus range in Anatolia. Either the finished object, or the raw material, was brought to the southern Levant, adding another major component to the already-rich Late Chalcolithic metallurgical corpus known to-date. The paper also discusses possible uses of the object, suggesting that it may have been used as a spindle whorl, at least towards its deposition.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Archaeology*
  • Environment
  • Fossils
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Lead / history*
  • Metallurgy / history*
  • Radiometric Dating*


  • Lead

Grant support

The work was made possible with the kind assistance of the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.