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7,000-year-old seal impression marks prehistoric site as early trade hub

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The ancient Beit She’an Valley village of Tel Tsaf may have been a prehistoric commercial mecca, according to a recent article published in the journal Levant.

Alongside mounting evidence of organized large-scale agricultural production, a tiny 7,000-year-old blob of clay with geometric patterns — the earliest impressed sealing discovered in the region — is giving academics new insight into what may have been one of the earliest trade hubs and administration centers in the southern Levant.

According to Hebrew University Prof. Yosef Garfinkel, the sealing was used on a grain silo door or a commodities sack or vessel much in the manner of a hair placed on a doorjamb — to catch trespassers.

“Even today, an electrical meter is sealed with a plomba [lead seal] to see if somebody has opened it and played with the numbers,” Garfkinkel explained to The Times of Israel on Thursday. “It’s an administrative device still used today — like wax and notaries’ stamps.”

The clay sealing was uncovered in a Middle Chalcolithic context (5200–4500 BCE) during excavations conducted by Garfinkel and Ariel University’s Prof. David Ben-Shlomo and Dr. Michael Freikman in 2004–2007.

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According to their recently published article in Levant, “A stamped sealing from Middle Chalcolithic Tel Tsaf: implications for the rise of administrative practices in the Levant,” the Tel Tsaf sealing is “thus far, the earliest known sealing from the southern Levant dated prior to the 4th millennium BCE, with an actual seal impression.”

The authors further propose that, taken alongside previously excavated complex agricultural storage systems, the new sealing may be first evidence of a trade hub, or “administrative control of trade and transportation of goods between local communities in the same area.”

According to the researchers, the........

© The Times of Israel

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