Around 3,200 years ago, a ship sank off the coast of Canaan. Whatever else it had on board, its cargo included four lead ingots reports haaretz.com
The ingots were found in the late 1980s off Caesarea beach by Prof. Ehud Galili of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa.
However, only now have they undergone advanced isotope analysis and study and they date to roughly the 13th or 12th century B.C.E.
They originated in lead ore in southwestern Sardinia, the isotope analysis shows. But they bear markings in Cypro-Minoan script.
The ingots’ subsequent arrival in the Levant – or rather, their accidental loss off the coast of Caesarea – attests to the vast reach of likely informal trading networks in the Late Bronze Age, posit Prof. Naama Yahalom-Mack, Prof. Yigal Erel and Ofir Tirosh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau and Galili of the University of Haifa and colleagues in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
The Sardinians had boats and quite the maritime tradition, Yahalom-Mack says. And in some fashion, the lead was shipped more than 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) to Cyprus, which doesn’t have to mean direct trade between the two countries, though it might. In any case, the Cypriots were clearly importing the lead in massive amounts, while the Sardinians were availing themselves of Cypriot copper.
Whether they imported the ore-bearing rock or already smelted metal, in Cyprus the lead would be processed again and marked (“rebranded,” as Yasur-Landau puts it).
The markings were made on molten metal, it bears adding. Then, the Cypriots would ship the ingots onward once they had cooled etcetera.
Transporting metal ingots that they hadn’t manufactured was quite the ancient Cypriot occupation, it turns out from this and numerous other shipwrecks. In the case of this doomed boat, its destination was the Bronze Age Levant.