Ritual hoard of copper objects from the Cave of the Treasure, Nahal Mishmar, present-day Israel, Late Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BC). Copper. Israel Museum, Jerusalem
The Chalcolithic period (Copper-Stone Age, ca. 5500–3500 BC) was an era of great social and technological development. Long before the pyramids were built in Egypt and writing was introduced in Mesopotamia, people in the Southern Levant—dwelling in the lands that today include Israel, Jordan, and their surrounding areas—were the first in the region to create metallurgy, temples, elaborate textiles, cash crops for export, and stratified societies. They employed sophisticated methods of smelting, alloying, and casting to produce small copper objects as ornaments and simple tools. Masters of Fire is the first exhibition in the United States devoted to the art of this formative period and features oddly shaped zoomorphic ossuaries, basalt stands with human faces, hoards of copper ritual objects, linen and wool textiles, carved ivory human figures, and other hauntingly beautiful objects.