Discoveries Show that Galilee and Jerusalem are Far Older than Once Believed
Discoveries regarding two of the most important archaeological sites in Israel – Galilee and Jerusalem, suggest that the sites are far older than commonly believed. Teams of archaeologists have found a giant village from 12,000 years ago in Galilee and a 7,000-year-old ancient settlement in Jerusalem.
Until now, it was thought that the oldest settlements in this part of the world were located in Jericho, which date back 11,000 years (c. 9,000 BC). In the case of Jerusalem, it was previously believed that the oldest settlement comes from c. 5,000 BC. As for Galilee, in 2015 archaeologists discovered fava seeds dated to between 10,125 and 10,200 years ago. The recently announced findings are changing the history of this area.
Jerusalem is at Least 2,000 Years Older
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced on February 17, 2016 the discovery of the oldest known remains of an ancient settlement on the site of modern-day Jerusalem, dating back some 7,000 years. This means that the beginning of one of the most important cities in the world dates back to the period of the Chalcolithic era, also known as the Copper Age.
Dr. Omri Barzilai, head of the IAA’s Prehistory Branch, declared that this finding is the oldest proof of human settlement in the Jerusalem area. It was known before that Galilee, Goland and Negev existed during the Chalcolithic period, but it was not known that Jerusalem was also an important site at the time. Some settlements in Judea Hills and Jerusalem were thought to exist, but they were believed to have been very sparse.
Archaeological excavations conducted at the northern Jerusalem site. (Israel Antiquities Authority)
According to Newsweek Europe, the excavations unearthed two houses with well-preserved remains and floors. The houses contained various installations as well as pottery vessels, flint tools, and a basalt bowl.
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Ronit Lupo, the director of excavations for the IAA at the site, says that the discovery, which includes complicated architectural structures and a range of different tools, points to a thriving settlement. The site also yielded animal bones, which will provide more information on the diet and economic habits of people who lived there.
Polished flint axe and blades and a gemstone bead discovered in the excavation in Jerusalem. (Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority)
Many of the recently uncovered artifacts are shedding new light on Jerusalem’s past. Lupo told the Times of Israel:
“This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity. Apart from the pottery, the fascinating flint finds attest to the livelihood of the local population in prehistoric times: Small sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels and polished axes for building, borers and awls, and even a bead made of carnelian (a gemstone), indicating that jewelry was either made or imported. The grinding tools, mortars and pestles, like the basalt bowl, attest to technological skills as well as to the kinds of crafts practiced in the local community.”
A basalt bowl dating back 7,000 years, found during archaeological excavations in the Shuafat neighborhood, northern Jerusalem. (Israel Antiquities Authority)
A Prehistoric Village in Galilee
Research published on February 16, 2016, suggests that the history of Galilee is also far older than previously believed. Evidence for the longer past comes in the form of an impressive-sized prehistoric village dating back 12,000 years, which was discovered by the Sea of Galilee.
Location of the 12,000 year old site Nahal Ein Gev II (NEG II) in the Southern Levant. (Grosman et al.)
This find has other repercussions, as it demonstrates that the theory claiming that people in the Levant had reverted to a nomadic existence of hunting and gathering because of climate stress in the late Natufian period (12,500 BC — circa 9,500 BC) is untrue.
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Haaretz reports that the site discovered by the Hebrew University archaeological team headed by Leore Grosman, unearthed the big village by the Sea of Galilee. Their discovery is proof that at least some people remained settled during that time. Furthermore, it is estimated that at least 100 people lived in the 1,200 square meter (three acre) area.
The NEG II site in the Jordan Valley where archaeologists from the Hebrew University have discovered the remains of a 12,000-year-old settlement. (Austin (Chad) Hill/Leore Grosman)
Grosman suggests that it is possible that the Dryas cold may have completely skipped over this region of the Jordan Valley (part of the Great Rift Valley.) This may explain why the people who lived in the village stayed.
“There is a model that claimed that what pushed people to agriculture was climate crisis and scholars tried to match up rainfall graphs with cultural change. But at least in the African Rift, it does not seem that there was such great distress, and this changes the picture somewhat,” Grosman said to Haaretz.
Some of the artifacts uncovered at the NEG II site: 1: Perforated Piece; 2–5: Decorated objects; 6: Green Stone Spacers; 7: Shell Bead; 8–10: Disc Beads; 10, 12–14: Disc Beads Pre-forms. (Grosman et al.)
In the paper, A Late Natufian Community by the Sea of Galilee published in the journal Plos ONE, Grosman explains that the Late Natufians were generally thought to have been a largely mobile population that coped with reduced resources caused by climate stress. The new research provides another side to the story.
During the excavations, archaeologists unearthed a cemetery with human remains, which will be tested in the near future. Other artifacts include: animal bones, flint objects, shells, beads, and small pieces of art.
Human remains found at the NEG II site by the Sea of Galilee. (Grosman et al.)
Amongst the animal remains are the bones of a barbell fish from the Sea of Galilee. Grosman expects that some of the perforated objects found at the site may be associated with a basic knowledge of fishing technology, perhaps as weights for a primitive fishing net.