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First-known glass from an ancient era is discovered in Israel, Cornell researchers report

The first-known examples of glass from an ancient era, known as the Iron I archaeological period, were found this summer in the Cornell University research area of the Tel Dor, Israel, archaeological site, according to Jeffrey Zorn, Cornell visiting lecturer in Near Eastern studies.

Zorn dates the finds back 3,000 years to 1,200-1,000 years B.C.E (Before the Common Era), which parallels the years B.C. in the Christian world. At that time Tel Dor was part of the broad ancient eastern Mediterranean culture. Five Cornell students worked at the site all summer.

The glass is believed to have been found by German volunteers working for a brief time with the Cornell team. The first find is a piece of a small, hand-made glass vessel; the second is perhaps part of an ear ornament, Zorn says. "These may seem like insignificant finds until you know that until this season absolutely no glass was known from Israel from the Iron I period. So we have filled the gap in the knowledge of ancient Levantine glass production."

Previously it was known only that glass existed in Israel in the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.) and in the later Iron II (1000 - 586 B.C.E.) period.

The Tel Dor dig involved Cornell, the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (which has been excavating at Dor since 1980), the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Santa Barbara. The Cornell students on the dig were: Heather Bernstein of Glen Rock, N.J.; Amy Beyer of Tucson, Ariz.; Yiyi Chen of China; Chris Gafner of Rome, N.Y.; and Melissa Loewenstern, of Dresher, Pa. All the Cornell students received travel scholarships from the Dorot Foundation of Providence, R.I. and Hirsch awards from the Intercollege Program in Archaeology at Cornell.

Zorn notes that in six weeks the students excavated about 26 cubic yards of earth, weighing about 20 tons. The students were completing what is believed to be the last Iron I age level at the site. They expect to begin digging in the Bronze Age level next summer.

Tel Dor is a harbor town on the Mediterranean and throughout its history it has been a trade center. Over the past few seasons, the archaeologists have found storage jar remains made from Egyptian clay, never before discovered in Israel. This find proved there was trade between the two societies. This summer, Zorn says, the students found more Egyptian jars, showing that trade was active even in the Iron I era.

The students also dug around an ancient smithy where they found pieces of bronze for recasting, crucibles still containing fragments of bronze, a furnace, bellows pot and layers of ash material, according to Zorn. The bronze and ash material will be sent to the Weizman Institute in Tel Aviv for further analysis by archaeometalurgists.

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