Archaeological excavations conducted at the northern Jerusalem site. .
(photo credit: COURTESY OF ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
An unprecedented and well-preserved 7,000-yearold compound recently unearthed in northern Jerusalem from the Chalcolithic period, or Copper Age, proves there was “a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times,” the Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.
Archaeologists from the authority discovered the remains, dating back to the fifth millennium BCE, ahead of the laying of a road in the Shuafat neighborhood.
According to Dr. Omry Barzilai, head of the authority’s Prehistory Branch, the Chalcolithic period is known in the Negev, the Coastal Plain and the Galilee and on the Golan, but has been almost completely absent in the Judean Hills and Jerusalem.
“Although in recent years we have discovered a few traces of Chalcolithic settlements, such as those at Abu Ghosh, Motza junction and the Holyland Compound in Jerusalem, they have been extremely sparse,” he said. “Now, for the first time, we have discovered significant remains from 7,000 years ago.”
During the Chalcolithic period, man started using tools made of copper (chalcos in Greek) for the first time, while continuing to use tools made of stone (lithos), hence the name given to the period.
Barzilai said the excavation exposed two houses with intact remains, featuring floors containing various installations, as well as pottery vessels, flint tools and a basalt bowl, which were all typical of the time. The construction phases and signs of their maintenance show that the buildings were used for a considerable time, he said.
Ronit Lupo, director of excavations, said the findings prove there was “a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times.”
“Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem’s architecture,” she said.
“This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity. Apart from the pottery, the fascinating flint finds attest to the livelihood of the local population in prehistoric times.”
Moreover, Lupo said that small sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels and polished axes for building, borers and awls – as well as a bead made of carnelian (a gemstone) – indicate that jewelry was either made or imported in the area.
The archaeologist added that grinding tools, mortars and pestles, including a basalt bowl, attest to technological skills, as well as to the kinds of crafts practiced in the local community.
“We also recovered a few bones of sheep/goat and possibly cattle,” she said. “These will be analyzed further in the IAA [Antiquities Authority] laboratories, permitting us to recreate the dietary habits of the people who lived here 7,000 years ago, and enhancing our understanding of the settlement’s economy.”