9,000-year-old ‘metropolis’ discovered in Israel could be a ‘Big Bang moment’ for prehistorical research
A recently unearthed Neolithic settlement is offering new insight into how civilisations developed at the end of the Stone Age.
“It’s a game changer”, said Jacob Vardi, the co-director of the excavation site run by the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA), “a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era.”
The ancient city would have been home to approximately 3,000 people, representing a complex society that could rival modern cities. Located only 3 miles from Jerusalem and next to the city of Motza, the site was found during an archaeological survey of the area in preparation for the construction of a new highway.
The discovery is surprising because it was widely believed that the entire area had been uninhabited during the Stone Age. Instead, a ‘true metropolis’ has been unearthed, stretching for over half a kilometre and made up of large buildings, alleyways, public facilities and burial places, displaying evidence of relatively advanced city planning.
The Neolithic era represented the period of history where human society changed from Hunter-Gatherer to more static communities with the advent of farming and the development of agricultural practices.
“This is probably the largest excavation of this time period in the Middle East, which will allow the research to advance leaps and bounds ahead of where we are today, just by the amount of material that we are able to save and preserve from this site” said Lauren Davis, an archaeologist with the IAA.
Grave goods found at the burial sites such as obsidian beads and seashells indicate that the city residents traded with neighbouring regions. Thousands of stone arrowheads for hunting, axes for felling trees and sickle blades and knives were also found, suggesting that in addition to farming crops and keeping livestock, the residents continued to hunt game such as gazelle, deer, wolves and foxes.
Excavations found storage sheds that contained large quantities of legumes, particularly lentils, chickpeas and beans, whose seeds were remarkably preserved.
“This finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture”, commented Vardi, “Animal bones found on the site show that the settlement’s residents became increasingly specialised in sheep-keeping, while the use of hunting for survival gradually decreased.”
Added: 19th July 2019