Archaeologists Just Uncovered the World's First Furnace from 6,500 Years Ago
Photo credit: Yael Abadi-Reiss, Clara Amit, Talia Abulafia, Israel Antiquities Authority
From popular mechanics
A 6500 year old copper smelting furnace was found in the desert around Beersheba.
Mastery of copper and smelting technology was the key to the next step in human development.
The furnace was found 60 miles from the mine, indicating the technology's secrecy.
Israeli researchers have figured out what could be the oldest furnace found to date - a nearly 6,500 year old forge that they say helped stratify the old economy. The research appears in the Journal of Archaeological Science and is the culmination of three years of work.
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"The excavation revealed evidence of indigenous production from the Chalcolithic era around 6,500 years ago," excavation director Talia Abulafia said in a statement. "One of the surprising finds is a small workshop for smelting copper with broken pieces from a furnace - a small installation made of tin in which copper ore was melted - and lots of copper slag."
"If you throw lumps of ore into a fire, you will get stuck," said researcher Erez Ben-Yosef in the statement. "You need certain skills to build special ovens that can reach very high temperatures while maintaining low oxygen levels."
It is these extraordinary temperatures, which are still part of metallurgy on a massive global scale, that point the way to traces that you can still see after 6500 years.
"Several fragments of furnaces, crucibles and slag were unearthed and represented an extensive copper smelting workshop located in a specific neighborhood of a settlement," explains the paper. "Typological and chemical analyzes indicated a two-step technology (primary furnace-based smelting followed by crucible smelting / refining), and lead isotope analysis indicated that the ore came exclusively from Wadi Faynan."
? Reads Essential Archeology
The researchers found the workshop evidence more than 60 miles from Wadi Faynan, the suspected location of the mine, which is initially puzzling. Then they realized that the likely explanation was that copper smelters were concerned about intellectual property theft at a time when they had at least a local monopoly on the production of valuable copper. This prompted the researchers to add the idea that the oven represents another milestone: the beginning of a protective “startup” -like culture of innovation.
“It's important to understand that refining copper was the high tech of that time. There was no more sophisticated technology than this in all of ancient times, ”Ben-Yosef said in the statement.
That added to the Ghassulian culture, a group that thrived locally and achieved tremendous artistic achievement. The statement explains:
“This culture, which spanned the region from the Beer Sheva Valley to what is now southern Lebanon, was unusual for its artistic achievements and ritual objects, as evidenced by the wondrous copper objects discovered in Nahal Mishmar and now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. "
This period in ancient history is called Chalcolithic, which means that people at that time used both stone and copper depending on their application. The socio-economic diffusion that this creates is embodied in craft games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. There you can spend less on a basic tool that breaks faster, until you finally unlock the idea for more advanced and durable tools. It was certainly in the interests of the old metallurgists to keep their idea under wraps for as long as possible.
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