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9,000-year-old Neolithic settlement unearthed west of Jerusalem

Pic: Directors of the excavations at Motza on behalf of the Antiquities Authority. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Just a few miles outside of Jerusalem, archaeologists have discovered the largest known settlement in Israel and one of the largest in the Middle East dating back to the Neolithic period.

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

Vardi said that preservation and size of the settlement make the site a “game changer” and is already causing some international scholars to consider making revisions to their work.

“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 in the Northern Levant. 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,” Vardi and Khalaily said in an IAA press release.

They said the site shows how the people of that time were influential in shaping what the Middle East has become today by starting an agricultural revolution. Springs in the area were a good reason for making it a long-term settlement.

Burial sites were also found, contributing tot he belief that the settlement was long term and that the people of that time were less migratory than believed.

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