The largest Neolithic city in Israel, a 9,000-year-old settlement that is considered a “game-changer,” has been uncovered by archaeologists just outside of Jerusalem.
Located near the town of Motza five miles outside of Jerusalem, it is the largest Neolithic settlement ever found in the Levant region to date, and it offers archaeologists a treasure trove of artifacts and knowledge that have already given researchers an amazing window into the lives of the people who lived there.
From the air, the settlement is massive. Excavations have revealed roads, weapons, tools, buildings, pottery and even a tomb and other graves.
Lead by Jacob Vardi and Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), the team has been excavating the area to make way for highway construction through the area.
It’s still going to take time to dig, however, especially since every layer of soil is giving the researchers a picture of thousands of years worth of history.
The find certainly took everyone by surprise as it had been long thought that the area had been uninhabited.
“So far, it was believed that the Judea area was empty, and that sites of that size existed only on the other bank of the Jordan river, or in the Northern Levant. Instead of an uninhabited area from that period, we have found a complex site, where varied economic means of subsistence existed, and all this only several dozens of centimeters below the surface,” Vardi and Khalaily explained in an IAA press release.
In fact, the city is so impressive that the team estimates that 3,000 people lived within its boundaries.
“We uncovered over an acre of Neolithic architecture, which is pretty impressive in universal terms,” Vardi said in a video also released by IAA. “We estimate that between two to three thousand people were living here simultaneously.”
“It’s a game changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” Vardi told the Times of Israel.
Indeed, it certainly is. Vardi went on to note that the settlement predates the construction of the pyramids and other Neolithic experts are already looking at their own research to make changes.
The site has revealed that the people of the settlement hunted extensively and were an agricultural society that stored seeds for the growing season and specialized in farming sheep.
“The society was at its peak” Khalaily said. “The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site’s age.”
And it’s easy to see why these ancient people chose to settle in this area. After all, the site sits near several water sources and a fertile valley prime for growing crops and grazing livestock.
“These optimal conditions are a central reason for long-term settlement on this site, from the Epipaleolithic Period, around 20,000 years ago, to the present day,” the press release says.
In the video (below), archaeologist Lauren Davis walked through narrow spaces between building sites that were ancient alleyways before highlighting a 4,000-year-old tomb where two warriors and a donkey were buried.
“In this tomb are two individuals — warriors — who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” Davis said.
“There’s also an amazing find, which is a whole donkey, domesticated, that was buried in front of the tomb probably when they sealed it.”
Sure enough, the skeleton of a donkey rests in the dirt and was likely meant to serve the warriors in the afterlife.
Khalaily displayed the spearhead and other artifacts the team found, including a blade made of obsidian that originated from Anatolia, Turkey. That means the settlement also had established trade routes.
And this is just the beginning of the research because the team is going to use technology to create a 3D representation of the site for continued study.
“When we finish the excavation here we will be able to continue to research the site in the laboratory,” Vardi said.
The IAA also announced that it will make sure that others learn about the site even after a highway is constructed through it.
“In addition, the IAA plans to tell the story of the site at the site by means of a display and illustration,” the press release says. “At Tel Motza, adjacent to this excavation, archaeological remains are being preserved for the public at large, and conservation and accessibility activities are being carried out in Tel Bet Shemesh and Tel Yarmut.”
We already know much about Neolithic humans, but we continue to learn more and more every day because new discoveries are constantly being uncovered, some of which have changed our previous views of them.
This latest find certainly changes the history of the Levant region and should make us all wonder what could be buried beneath our own feet. It may be the remains of an entire city that no one ever knew existed.
See more in the video from the Israel Antiquities Authority Official Channel below:
Featured Image: YouTube screenshot