The oldest known scale beam was recently found near Kfaraabida in North Lebanon and is now on display this week at the American University of Beirut Archaeology museum.
This groundbreaking find calls into question the assumption that early Levantine settlements were less technologically or economically developed than those found in present-day Turkey and Greece. In fact, the scale beam dates back to the early third millennium BC , predating those discovered elsewhere, while the location of the find at Tell Fadous-Kfraabida–believed to be a secondary Bronze Age urban settlement–may indicate that the technology was already widespread in the region at the time.
Hurry and see the exhibition before it closes at the end of this month.
The exhibition also contains cylinder scrolls found at Kfaraabida, also indicating sophistication of the settlement:
As well as a number of fascinating items on display from excavations across the country:
There is potentially a lot more to be uncovered at the Kfaraabida site, despite the fact that property owners have already bulldozed a large section of it and some real estate developers have already built over parts of it. One even plans to build a large hotel, according to locals.
It’s unclear at this point if the Lebanese state can protect the site so that further discoveries can be made. If well-preserved, fully excavated and presented to the public, Kfaraabida could become a major tourist attraction along with the town’s unique seafront caves, natural pools and springs, which are also threatened by yet another multimillion dollar development.
Locals have begun a #SaveKfaraabida campaign to challenge it. Follow them on Facebook.
Here is an excerpt on the importance of the scale beam from the lead archaeologist, Hermann Genz:
“The scale beam at Tell Fadous-Kfrarabida…. demonstrates the existence of sophisticated socio- economic transactions in the Levant around the same time that more complex settlements emerge. The term ‘urban settlements’ has recently been criticised (Philip 2001; Chesson & Philip 2003), partly due to the apparent lack of administrative and social complexity in the third millennium BC in the southern Levant. The evidence of cylinder seal impressions (Flender 2000), the slowly growing number of weights from Levantine sites of the third millennium BC and now the scale beam from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida call for a re-evaluation of this criticism.
“The fact that this scale beam was not found in one of the commercial centres of the Levant such as Byblos, but in a small settlement of secondary or even tertiary rank suggests that the practice of weighing must have been more common in the Early Bronze Age Levant than hitherto assumed. The reason for the scant attestation of scale beams and weights in the Early Bronze Age Near East is probably the general neglect of simple bone and stone artefacts in most excavations. Indeed a systematic collection of all bone artefacts from Tell Fadous-Kfarabida has resulted in a remarkably high number of bone tools (Jastrze ̧bska in Genz et al. 2009), and the same is true for groundstone objects, although no scale weights are yet attested on the site (Damick in Genz et al. 2009). Thus a thorough study of bone and stone objects from Near Eastern sites will certainly enlarge the number of scale beams and weights for the third millennium BC in the future.”
You can read Genz’s full report here.