Year 1 No.


May 2012

LCM Newsletter
Bulletin of the MA Program in Archaeomaterials at Tel Aviv University

Research News
Micromorphology of Pre-Pottery Neolithic sites
Micromorphology is the microscopic study of soils and sediments in thin section. This powerful method enables the examination of archaeological deposits in situ at the microscale. The thin sections are prepared from undisturbed and oriented block samples that are removed from sections and surfaces within the site. The Doron Boness samples are first impregnated in vacuum conditions by synthetic resin and then cut by a diamond disk saw, polished and used to produce large microscopic thirty-micron thin sections. As an extension of field observations and interpretations, micromorphology is used to make inferences concerning various depositional and post-depositional processes, and to define the nature of human activities at different parts of the site. The Neolithic period in the Near East is divided into four chronological phases. The second phase, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (hence PPNB), is well known for is marked by great socio-economical changes from the preceding Palaeolithic periods. These comprise animal and plant domestication, shift into large permanent villages, social stratification, unified ritual system and the beginning of large-scale sophisticated technologies.

In the framework of an MA study made under the supervision of Professors Yuval Goren (Tel Aviv University) and A. Nigel Goring-Morris (The Hebrew University in Jerusalem), a thorough micromorphological study was made by Archaeomaterials student Doron Boness. This study attempted to examine spatial patterning of human activities at two sites: Kfar HaHoresh near Nazareth and Beisamoun in the western margins of the Hula Basin. The two sites represent two entirely different Pre-Pottery Neolithic types of settlements. However, despite the fact that they are quite far apart both in time and in space, they nevertheless represent two aspects of a domesticated society. In employing micromorphology as a research method, it has been possible to shed light on the type of material culture not always visible in the naked eye, particularly in spatial patterning of pyrotechnology (fire using complex technology) and other fired-related activities. The comparison between the two sites, purportedly representing residential and non-residential contexts has pointed to two different concepts of spatial patterning of human practice.

Iron Age Judahite figurines and their origins
Human clay figurines of the pillar type are a widespread phenomenon in the Kingdom of Judah during the late Iron Age II. These figurines are very distinctive from figurines outside Judah, thus they were often defined as the "Judean pillar figurines". Their existence is spanning Head of a pillar type figurine (IAA archiv e) from the 8th century BCE till the end of the Kingdom of Judah at 586 BCE. The later part of the 8th century BCE in Judah is marked by a changed geopolitical situation by the advent of the Assyrian Empire in the Levant. A new centralized state administrative system had emerged in its wake, as is shown by the systems of taxation and agricultural production and the standardization of pottery and weights. The basic assumption is that the cultural and religious phenomenon of human pillar figurines in Judah might have had something to do with this changing social and political situation. Even more peculiar is that the

Portable micromorphological and geochemical lab, Beisamoun, 2010

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Year 1 No. 4

May 2012

prevalent existence of these figurines apparently seems to contradict the general non-iconic tendency embedded in the Judahite visual arts in the late Iron Age. The studies dealing with these figurines were often concerned with the matters of identification or the function of these figurines in light of the literary sources, or with limited study of their assemblages from individual excavations. These studies did not go so far as to explain the detailed raison d'être of the figurines in the Judahite society. This explanation requires a Yoon Kook Young composite knowledge on the lifetime of these figurines, from their emergence and consequent evolvement to their abrupt disappearance. In order to shed light on this matter, a new study is performed by Yoon Kook Young in the framework of a Ph.D. dissertation in archaeomaterials and the history of early Israel under the supervision of Professors Yuval Goren and Oded Lipschits. The manufacture and circulation patterns of the human clay figurines from the Kingdom of Judah are analyzed both on the typological and petrographic axes. Through the investigation of this combined stylistic and technological mechanism, this research aims to understand the social, political, cultural and religious implications that these figurines could bear, and thus to shed more light on the popular religious beliefs, perhaps also referred to by the bible, of the Kingdom of Judah during this time span.

remains. This find has important implications concerning the introduction of the war chariot. While chariots were harnessed to horses, not to donkeys, this bit was probably added to the slaughtered donkey for symbolic reasons before it was buried in the shrine 1. Other metal objects found in the same context add to this intriguing account. A research group of four experts in material engineering and archaeomaterials is now studying this horse-bit, together with other metal finds from the same burial and another horse-bit, found in the 1930s by Sir W.M. Flinders-Petrie in Tell el Ajjul near Gaza. The team includes Prof. Adin Stern (Faculty of Engineering, Ben Gurion University of the Negev), Prof. Noam Eliaz (Faculty of Engineering, Tel Aviv University), Prof. Yuval Goren (MA Program in Archaeology and Archaeomaterials and the LCM, Tel Aviv University), and Dr. Oz Golan (Afeka Tel-Aviv Academic College of Engineering). The intriguing results will be reported in an upcoming publication and in a future volume of this newsletter.

Field Projects
The Central Timna Valley (CTV) project is launched
The new excavations in the Timna region of southern Israel under the direction of Dr. Erez Ben Yosef, will address a number of critical issues in the Late Bronze and Iron Age archaeology of the southern Levant. These include the history of copper production technology and the introduction of iron, historical issues concerning the nature of 13th – 9th c. BCE desert societies and the impact of the intense copper production on social processes, regional and global political interactions and the economy of the southern Levant at that period. The excavations are targeted to answer a set of specific research questions that have been raised in recent years as a result of the intensive archaeological studies at the copper ore district of Faynan, Jordan, and a probe at Timna Site 30 (as well as recent work conducted in the Negev highlands). The research questions have significant implications for understanding social processes in a crucial period of early state for mation in the beginning of the Iron Age in the southern Levant. They are also related to several other fields of study, including archaeometallurgy and the archaeology of technology (technological processes: evolution, diffusion and invention), environmental archaeology (exploitation of natural resources, sustainability), and archaeological science (development of innovative research methodologies and techniques). Some of the questions touch upon issues with broad

An interdisciplinary study of 17th c. BCE bronze horse-bits from the northwestern Negev
Excavations at the Middle Bronze Age site of Tel Haror in Israel by the Archaeological Division of Ben Gurion University of the Negev under the direction of Prof. Eliezer D. Oren, uncovered a metal bit in an equid burial dating between 1750 and 1650 B.C.E. It is the oldest extant bit ever found in situ and would have been used to harness a donkey, according to Dr. Joel Klenck, the archaeozoologist who analyzed the faunal

Prof. Oren examining a horse-bit from Tell el Ajjul

This discovery is further discussed here:

Copyright © 2012 Laboratory for Comparative Microarchaeology, Tel Aviv University. All rights reserved. The newsletter may be distributed freely and used for academic or educational purposes only. No other use is allowed without written permission by the authors.

Year 1 No. 4

May 2012


presenting the theoretical and practical background of ancient technology, micromorphology, archaeomagnetic dating and the effects of earthquakes and tectonics on archaeological sites. Later, the students will experience the research of archaeological materials through a limited research project, comprising of a series of laboratories and discussing the social and cultural interpretations of the results.


The Goren folded mechanics polarizing microscope
In the course of many years of research, we attempted to find the best solution to develop a lightweight, compact, yet easy to use and fully functional polarizing microscope. On-site archaeological micromorphology, as well as the need to examine artifacts in museums abroad where the export of samples was limited or prohibited, increased this necessity. The McArthur microscopes (presented below in our “microscope of the month” section), even if they could be equipped with the polarizing set, proved to be extremely inconvenient for prolonged use. Old models of petrographic microscopes were too big and too heavy to carry in a handbag by flight or to be used conveniently in the field. In our research destinations we could rarely hope to find a polarizing microscope for loan. Therefore, from 1992 and on, we improvised our own solutions.

General view of the central Timna Valley (bottom right) and view of “The Slaves’ Hill” (A) and Site 30 (B). The copper production sites can be clearly seen by the dark concentrations of slag.

implications that reach beyond the southern Levant, such as the introduction of iron metal in the Old World and interrelations with other copper production centers and market destinations. The project is supported by the Yizhar Hirschfeld Memorial Fellowship in Archaeology from Yad Hanadiv (The Rothschild Foundation) for groundbreaking research in the archaeology of the Land of Israel. It will include a three-year archaeological investigation in the Timna ancient mining and metallurgy region of southern Israel.

News in Brief
Joint seminar of the program in Archaeomaterials and the Department of Geophysics at TAU, 2013
During the next (2013) academic year, the advanced graduate seminar in archaeomaterials will be carried-out jointly by Dr. Erez Ben Yosef and Prof. Yuval Goren (Archaeomaterials program) and Prof. Shmuel (Shmulik) Marco from the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, Tel Aviv University. Prof. Marco specializes amongst other aspects in the relevant fields of past earthquakes in the Middle East, archaeoseismology, and archaeomagnetism. The seminar will be directed Prof. Shmulik Marco to advanced students from the Program in Archaeology and Archaeomaterials and from the Department of Geophysics on behalf of the Faculty of Exact Sciences. It aims at integrating between archaeology and Earth Sciences. The first part the seminar will concentrate on a set of introductory classes

The larger (binocular) working prototype of the “folded mechanics” “Goren microscope”

During the last year, we developed a new concept of a field microscope. Instead of folding the optics as in the McArthur microscopes, the mechanics including the illumination unit, focusing devise, stage and substage condenser and analyzer unit were combined into one compact structure. After many trials and errors two models were designed. The larger binocular prototype (seen here) was built from old microscope parts and specially adjusted elements. The “folded mechanics” include the illumination system, condenser, analyzer and tint plate, and focusing devise, all inserted into one

Copyright © 2012 Laboratory for Comparative Microarchaeology, Tel Aviv University. All rights reserved. The newsletter may be distributed freely and used for academic or educational purposes only. No other use is allowed without written permission by the authors.

Year 1 No. 4

May 2012

compact unit. The functioning model of a compact “folded mechanics” microscope was built using the frame of a helicoid ring, into which the LED illuminator, Abbe condenser, and sliding analyzer and “tint plate” were inserted. A centerable rotating stage was added. This microscope can be operated by 110/240 Volt AC mains, a battery pack with three AA size batteries, or a PC USB cable. Focusing is achieved by rotating the helicoid ring. A smaller monocular pocket model, featuring the same properties but in a much more compact version, is under construction and will be shown in one of our next newsletters. This microscope design was filed as two international patents by Ramot at Tel Aviv University, the University Authority for Applied Research and Industrial Development Ltd.

particularly as it can be hand-held for high magnifications, and it was primarily this advantage which encouraged the UK Open University to take up Dr. McArthur's relatively inexpensive version for inclusion in the home experiment kit which it provided for its science foundation course in the 1970s. Folded-optics microscopes of the McArthur concept have been produced by several makers. In the 1960s, Nikon produced the “Model H” which was predominantly based on the principle of the McArthur microscope. During the 1970s and the early 1980s, Swift Optical Instruments

Microscope of the month
In this column, we display each month a landmark instrument from our lab’s collection of historical microscopes, with special emphasis on field microscopy.

The McArthur folded optics field microscope
From the middle of the 20th century and on, the field microscopes are dominated by the innovative design of the folded-optics or the McArthur microscope concept, introduced shortly before World War II. This category refers to an exceptional design of a handheld field microscope that was invented by Dr. John Norrie McArthur in the 1930s. Still as a medical student in 1929 and during a trip exploring the Brazilian jungle, McArthur became convinced of the need for a compact field microscope. The basic prototype design was made of wood and described by him in the Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1934. After some further experiments, the third instrument to be made was used by Dr McArthur when he was appointed to carry out malaria research in Borneo by the Colonial Office in 1937. After the invasion of the Imperial Japanese Army to Borneo two years later, he thought out much of the development work on the instrument in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, and the basic instrument was finally put on the market in 1957. The McArthur field microscope remains a classic of compact design and perfor mance, and has been used for malaria diagnosis and other fieldwork over several decades. The small dimensions are due to “folding” of the 160mm light path length. The basic difference between the McArthur and conventional microscopes is that the light path in the former is turned through two right angles by front-surfaced mirrors so that the whole microscope takes the form of a small oblong box. This compactness makes the McArthur microscope ideal for fieldwork,
The McArthur microscope produced by Vickers, 1950s

(USA) produced the popular FM (“Fieldmaster”) 31 model. The interest in this design declined for some years during the 1990s, but was revived in some current projects such as the Millennium Health Microscope (MHM) developments (currently named the Newton microscope: ). This project, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Royal Microscopic Society and some other high profile funds, demonstrates the necessity for high quality optical field microscopes even in an era when microscopy is dominated by the SEM, TEM, AFM and similar instruments.

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Copyright © 2012 Laboratory for Comparative Microarchaeology, Tel Aviv University. All rights reserved. The newsletter may be distributed freely and used for academic or educational purposes only. No other use is allowed without written permission by the authors.