Israel Department of Antiquities and the Israel Museum

The Chalcolithic (c. 4th millennium B.C.) copper horde appears as it was first seen when astonished archaeologists discovered the cache in a niche in the “Cave of the Treasure” on a cliff west of the Dead Sea. Found in the Nahal Mishmar by Pesach Bar-Adon in 1960, the 429 objects were wrapped in a still-intact straw mat. Archaeologists speculate that the scepters, crowns, mace-heads, axes and other ceremonial artifacts were hidden by a nearby community when invaders threatened their cult center which was probably located at the Chalcolithic site discovered on a plateau at Ein Gedi.

The perforated sickle-shaped objects in the foreground were carved from hippopotamus tusks. That animal, now extinct in Israel, may have inspired the description of the “behemoth” in the Book of Job. In the center of the heap, between two spiral shafts, a pair of ibex horns protrudes from a scepter. The 5000-year-old ibex scepter confirms the ancient presence of this graceful animal on the steep cliffs above the Dead Sea.