Biblical Archaeology Review 37:2, March/April 2011

Strata: What Is It?

A. Philistine warrior’s shield

B. Chalcolithic mirror

C. Byzantine storage jar lid

D. Roman cookie cutter

E. Egyptian signet seal

Answer: (B) Chalcolithic mirror

This exquisitely crafted mirror from the Chalcolithic period (c. 4500–3300 B.C.E.), which measures 8 inches in diameter and less than half an inch thick, is one of the finest examples of an obsidian mirror ever found in Israel. It was discovered in a field near the site of Tel Kabri in the western Galilee. Not only was the mirror fashioned to be of uniform shape and thickness, but both the body and handle of the mirror were masterfully carved from a single piece of the black, lustrous volcanic stone. While the mirror’s face (unseen in the photograph) and edges were polished to a glossy, reflective sheen, the underside and handle were intentionally roughened to add contrast and decoration to the piece. For added effect, the artist elegantly incised both the handle and the mirror’s outer edge with two parallel lines, creating a masterpiece of exceptional beauty and craftsmanship.

The obsidian mirror was part of a collection of artifacts that had been deposited as burial offerings in an early Chalcolithic tomb. Chemical analysis of obsidian artifacts from Kabri indicates that the source of the obsidian was likely the area of Lake Van in eastern Anatolia, modern Armenia.

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