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Road Crew Finds 10K-Year-Old House

Monday, December 2, 2013

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Construction crews widening a highway in Israel stumbled across what could be some of the earliest examples of urban planning: a 10,000-year-old home and a 6,000-year-old temple.

The two staggering architectural finds are part of a settlement, authorities said. Crews discovered them during a routine dig on Israel's Highway 38.

Eshtaol dig-aerial
Sky View Company, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavation runs along Israel's Highway 38, which was being widened when crews made the find.

The vast excavation site is in Eshtaol, about 15 miles west of Jerusalem.

In addition to the two buildings, the site has turned up a cluster or rare axes and "amazing finds that provide a broad picture covering thousands of years of development of human society," reports the Israel Antiquities Authority, which now shares jurisdiction of the area with the Netivei Israel, the state-owned transportation company.

The Antiquities Authority posted an article detailing the find on its website.

Public interest in the site was so strong that the agencies planned to open the area to public visitors for two hours Wednesday (Nov. 27).

'Orderly Construction'

The find is offering experts a rare look at a unique period of civilization: the beginning of humans' transition from a rural and nomadic society to an urban and permanent one.

Dr. Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors, discusses the findings at the site.

“We can see distinctly a settlement that gradually became planned, which included alleys and buildings that were extremely impressive from the standpoint of their size and the manner of their construction,” Dr. Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors, said Monday (Nov. 25).

"We can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement's leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlment and allowed less planning along its periphery."

Stone foundation - Eshtaol
Ya'akov Vardi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

The remains of the 10,000-year-old house were found west of Jerusalem. The dwelling is the oldest ever found in the Judean Shephlah.

Golani added: "It is fascinating to see how in such an ancient period a planned settlement was established tin which there is orderly construction, and trace the development of the society which became increasingly hierarchical."

Ancient Home Repair

The oldest artifact in the excavation is the home, which is believed to date to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period (10,000 YBP). The home is the oldest structure ever discovered in the Judean Shephelah, the Judean foothills in south-central Israel.

Eshtaol dig - jar
Dr. Ron Be’eri, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

A jar typical of the Early Bronze Age was discovered buried beneath the floor of a building.

In July, archeologists announced that they had found King David's Palace and one of its storerooms at an excavation in the same region.

Almost all of the building was found, including evidence of "a number of construction and repair phases," attesting to the structure's importance as an early permanent dwelling, authorities said.

Temple and Axes

Nine flint and limestone axes were discovered lying side by side near the building.

Such axes were used as both tools and cultic objects and were "highly valued by their owners," the Authority's experts said.

Excavation work - Eshtaol
Yoli Shwarz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Work is still underway at the excavation, which was to be opened briefly to the public.

The temple, believed to date from the end of the Chalsolithic period (second half of the fifth millennium BCE) was found in an adjacent area, authorities said. Alongside the temple was a standing stone column, 1.3 meters high and several hundred kilos in weight.

The six-sided stone had been smoothed and worked on all sides and erected with one side facing east, indicating the presence of a cultic temple at the site, authorities said.


Tagged categories: Churches; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Residential Construction; Roads/Highways

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