A small copper awl found in a woman's ancient grave in Israel is rewriting history. It's the oldest metal object ever found in the Middle East, and was probably owned by the apparently important 40-year-old woman buried with it in an extravagant Tel Tsaf grave, LiveScience reports. The awl's date has pushed back metal use in the region centuries earlier than thought, to about 5100 BC. The copper it's made of was likely brought in from 620 miles away, adds Sci-News, suggesting locals imported metal objects first before starting to create them. Archaeologists had previously estimated the region's metal use started around 4500 BC thanks to some copper artifacts and gold rings found in the southern Levant.
The awl also says quite a lot about Tel Tsaf, an important archaeological site in the Middle East since it was discovered in 1950. Located near the Jordan River, Tel Tsaf was a wealthy center of international commerce in the ancient world. It had huge silos that could store up to 30 tons of grain each, roasting ovens in communal courtyards that suggest large gatherings took place there, and many artifacts originating from elsewhere around the Mediterranean, as per the Jerusalem Post. The awl suggests people in the region also had fairly advanced technology. The archaeologist who led the dig says it "constitutes evidence of a peak of technological development among the peoples of the region and is a discovery of global importance." (Read more archaeology stories.)