A metal object, a copper awl that dates back to the early 5th millennium or late 6th millennium BCE, was discovered in the Middle East during excavations at Tel Tsaf, making it the oldest metal object found to date in the region, university researchers reveal in a recent study.

Tel Tsaf is a Middle Chalcolithic village that dates back to 5200-4600 BCE and is situated close to the Jordan River and international border with Jordan. First documentation of the site was in the 1950s, while excavations started toward the end of 1970s.

This village has become the most significant archaeological spot in Middle East, providing a huge amount of valuable data to researchers, until now with the recent research conducted by researchers of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology and Department of Archaeology at University of Haifa, together with researchers of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and German Archaeological Institute of Berlin.

The copper awl is a cone-shaped object merely four centimeters long and one millimeter thick. It is the most significant finding to date in this site, discovered by Hebrew University professor Yosef Garfinkel in the sealed grave of a woman who was around 40 years old.

“The appearance of the item in a woman’s grave, which represents one of the most elaborate burials we’ve seen in our region from that era, testifies to both the importance of the awl and the importance of the woman,” project leader Dr. Danny Rosenberg says in a statement, adding that we may be witnessing the preliminary hints of social hierarchy and complexity.

The grave and a beaded belt found with the woman were already reported in scientific journals, except for the copper awl only recently reported because the chemical components went through analysis by professor Sariel Shalev of University of Haifa. Since the awl was found just above the woman’s skeleton, the researchers believe it was a burial offering or may have been owned by her.

Yet above all this, why is this artifact important to this day and age? First, researchers say the discovery shows an important impact on how people understand the emerging use of complicated technologies as well as the connected social contexts. Second, the artifact is an added evidence of the significance of the site to the ancient world. And it appears to push back the date at which metal was used in the area by several hundred years.

Researchers admit they aren’t sure what or how the copper awl was utilized before. Early use of the metal object and its distance source, however, confirm the buried woman’s high social status and the significance of the building where she was buried. Awls are sharp, pointed objects used as tools, perhaps for making holes or marking surfaces.

Dr. Rosenberg says that although the discovery has a global importance, many areas are yet to be made known and more progress still needs to be completed.

The research’s findings were published in the PLOS ONE journal.

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