Archaeologists unearthed a 9,000-year-old city together with its tools and artifacts just outside of Jerusalem, when workers discovered the site while creating a new entrance to the capital.
Archaeologists excavated the site for a year and a half, unveiling streets, burial grounds and trade items yielding hints as to how society operated in Neolithic times.
“The materials’ culture was very, very rich, which could indicate that the settlement was well-organized by political and economic leaders,” site manager Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily told The Jerusalem Post.
Large extended families lived together in designated quarters spread throughout the city, according Dr. Jacob Vardi, to another site manager. The street infrastructure indicates evidence of planning before the construction of houses.
According to the excavators, the city existed for roughly 1,500 year as a trade center. Arrowheads and knives composed of volcanic glass came from commerce with Turkey, while basalt grinding tools showed contact with the North.
Animal bones and stockpiles of seeds show a dependence on livestock and agriculture. However, game bones suggest that the society practiced hunting and gathering at some point. Vardi inferred that the settlement eventually switched between the two lifestyles, and that it “reached its peak in the last 300 or 400 years.”
Vardi explained that the economy began to thrive after the adoption of domesticated animals. “When that happened, the site became extremely huge – from maybe one hectare it grew to 30 or 40 hectares.”
The artifacts will be examined by specialists during preparation for publication in four volumes. From there, museums will decide which artifacts to acquire and present to public. “We owe the public and we are going to work very hard,” Vardi said.
Unclaimed objects will go to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which sponsored the dig along with a number of universities. Although most university-sponsored digs usually last for only a month, these archaeologists aren’t ending the dig soon. “We have plenty of material for years of research,” Vardi said.
The managers experienced difficulty with the initial process of the dig, as some staff supposedly didn’t exert themselves according to standards, and new staff was taken on midway through the project.
“It’s very unprecedented to excavate such a large site in a year continuously, with slight change of personnel and no breaks,” Vardi said. “It’s hard.”
Despite the challenges, the managers claim that there is something quite fulfilling about archaeology.
“For an archaeologist it’s always enthusiastic,” Vardi said. “Every day there’s something new… something hiding.”