The Late Chalcolithic Period 4500–3500 BCE
Introduction In the second half of the fifth millennium BCE, and over the course of the next one thousand years, a society existed in the land of Israel that was more sophisticated than any society that had come before. Its population subsisted by hunting and gathering, but also raised sheep and goats and cultivated cereals and fruit. Its settlements spread from the Golan to the Negev. During this period, known as the Chalcolithic period (chalcos = copper, lithos = stone), people continued to use stone tools, but metals – copper and gold –were introduced as well, and individuals began to specialize in the craft of metalworking. Other materials were also employed, such as ivory, flax, new types of stone, and shell.
The use of obsidian from Anatolia (Turkey) provides evidence of long-distance trade. In the realm of funerary practices, a new custom emerged: secondary burial in ossuaries, small pottery boxes in which the bones of the deceased were deposited after the flesh had decomposed. These boxes were buried in caves situated outside the settlement areas. The exceptional quality and richness of the objects produced in this period suggest that Chalcolithic society was one of the most impressive in the history of the land of Israel. Strangely, this fascinating culture disappeared just as suddenly as it appeared, for reasons still unknown to us today.