5,500-year-old gate discovered in Israel offers glimpse into ancient urbanization

The discovery provides valuable insights into the development of urban centers and their strategic defense in ancient times.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israeli archaeologists excavating an area near Kiryat Gat’s industrial zone prior to the laying of a water pipe discovered a 5,500-year-gate, the oldest such structure ever found in Israel, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Tuesday.

“The discovery of the most ancient city gate known in the country adds another important piece of knowledge to our archaeological knowledge,” said Antiquities Authority Eli Eskosido. “Together with the cooperation of the Mekorot Water Company, it was decided to move the water pipe in order to preserve the ancient gate.”

The excavation in Tel Erani unveiled not only the gate, but also a portion of a fortification system, all dating to the Early Bronze Age, approximately 3,300 years ago.

According to the Antiquities Authority, the discovery provides valuable insights into the development of urban centers and their strategic defense in ancient times.

“This is the first time that such a large gate dating to the Early Bronze Age has been uncovered,” said excavation director Emily Bischoff. “In order to construct the gate and the fortification walls, stones had to be brought from a distance, mudbricks had to be manufactured and the fortification walls had to be constructed. This was not achieved by one or a few individuals. The fortification system is evidence of social organization that represents the beginning of urbanization.”

Tel Erani is a 150 dunam (37 acre) site whose origins are associated with the ancient Philistines. The city, located on the present day outskirts of Kiryat Gat, was destroyed in the 6th Century BCE, presumably by the Babylonians.

“The tel site was part of a large and important settlement system in the southwestern area of the country in this period,” explained the Authority’s Dr. Yitzhak Paz, a specialist in the Early Bronze Age. “Within this system we can identify the first signs of the urbanization process, including settlement planning, social stratification, and public building. The newly uncovered gate is an important discovery that affects the dating of the beginning of the urbanization process in the country.”

Paz said that previous excavations suggested urbanization began at the end of the fourth millennium BCE, “but the excavations carried out at Tel Erani have now shown that this process began even earlier, in the last third of the fourth millennium BCE.”