Ancient mega-settlement size of Tel Aviv exposed near Jerusalem

The excavation work is “changing what has been known about the Neolithic period in that area,” says the Israel Antiquities Authority.

By World Israel News Staff  

A huge settlement from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age), the largest known in Israel from that period and one of the largest of its kind in the region, has been discovered during archaeological excavations, says the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

It says the find is situated right outside Jerusalem, near Motza junction, and was uncovered as part of excavations conducted for a project which includes building a new entrance road to Jerusalem from the west.

“Thousands of arrowheads, pieces of jewelry and figurines… have been unearthed during the excavations,” says the IAA.

“The site is located on the banks of the Sorek Stream, near water fountains and close to a fertile valley,” said an authority statement, noting that these were “optimal conditions” for setting up a “long-term settlement… from the Epipaleolithic Period, around 20,000 years ago, to the present day.”

According to Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily and Dr. Jacob Vardi, excavation directors at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, “this is the first time that such a large-scale settlement from the Neolithic Period – 9,000 years ago – has been discovered in Israel. At least 2,000-3,000 residents lived here, an order of magnitude that parallels a present-day city,” they said in the statement.

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“The excavations exposed large buildings, including rooms that were used for living, as well as public facilities and places of ritual,” says the IAA, adding that “between the buildings, alleys were exposed, bearing evidence of the settlement’s advanced level of planning.”

The excavators note that “storage sheds were exposed, which contained a huge quantity of legumes, especially lentils. The fact that the seeds were preserved is astonishing in light of the site’s age,” they say, adding that “this finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture.”

According to researchers, “the exposure of the enormous site in Motza awakens extensive interest in the scientific world, changing what has been known about the Neolithic period in that area. 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 at the Northern Levant,” they say.

“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,” says the authority.