A Neolithic Settlement in Israel

Archaeologists have discovered a large Neolithic settlement in Israel. According to archaeologists involved in the digging at this site, this Neolithic settlement is the largest ever discovered in Israel and the Levant. Archaeologists have concluded that the site could have had a large population, as much as 3,000 residents. The archaeologists concluded that this Neolithic settlement was “a real metropolis.”

Below is a excerpt of the article written by Amanda Borschel-Dan. Borschel-Dan is Archaeology Editor for The Times of Israel.

9,000-year-old figurine depicting a human face, discovered during archaeological excavations at Motza near Jerusalem. (Clara Amit, Antiquities Authority)

The 9,000-year-old site, located near the town of Motza, is the “Big Bang” for prehistory settlement research due to its size and the preservation of its material culture, said Jacob Vardi, co-director of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority.

“It’s a game changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” said Vardi. Already some international scholars are beginning to realize the existence of the site may necessitate revisions to their work, he said.

“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,” according to Vardi and co-director Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily in an IAA press release.

According to co-director Khalaily, the people who lived in this town had trade and cultural connections to widespread populations, including Anatolia, which is the origin for obsidian artifacts discovered at the site. Other excavated material indicate intensive hunting, animal husbandry, and agriculture.

In addition to prehistoric tools such as thousands of arrowheads, axes, sickle blades, and knives, storage sheds containing large stores of legumes, especially lentils, were uncovered. “The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in the light of the site’s age,” said the archaeologists.

Alongside utilitarian tools, a number of small statues were unearthed, including a clay figurine of an ox and a stone face.

Among the architecture uncovered in the excavation are large buildings that show signs of habitation, as well as what the archaeologists identify as public halls and spaces used for worship. In a brief video published by the IAA, archaeologist Lauren Davis walks a narrow path between remains of buildings — a prehistoric alleyway. “Very much like we see in buildings today, separated by alleys between,” said Davis.

In addition to signs of life, the archaeologists uncovered several graves. According to Davis, in the midst of a layer dating to 10,000 years ago, archaeologists found a tomb from 4,000 years ago. “In this tomb are two individuals — warriors — who were buried together with a dagger and a spear head,” she said.

“There’s also an amazing find,” said Davis, “which is a whole donkey, domesticated, that was buried in front of the tomb probably when they sealed it.” Added Vardi, the donkey was apparently meant to serve the warriors in the world to come.

The article contains many photos of the site, including some of the artifacts found during the excavation. The article also includes a video describing the site and its significance.

Read Amanda Borschel-Dan’s article in its entirety by visiting The Times of Israel.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation News Online also has a good article on the Neolithic settlement. The article includes several short videos of the site.

Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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