5,000-Year-Old Canaanite Megacity Unearthed in Israel

5,000-Year-Old Canaanite Megacity Unearthed in Israel


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Archaeologists working for the Israel Antiquities Authority have announced the discovery of a major city, which they are calling a megalopolis. The site is rich in historic finds. Most of the site dates back 5,000 years and parts of it go back to an astonishing 7,000 years. The city is expected to rewrite the history of urbanization in the Levant and the early history of Canaanite society and culture.

The large prehistoric city was unearthed during excavations at the En Esur (Ein Asawir) archaeological site, located near Wadi Ara, a major artery that stretches from Hadera to Afula in the northern Sharon valley reports Jewish Press.com . It is not far from one of Israel’s newest cities, Harish. The settlement that dates back to the Bronze Age is approximately 160 acres in size.

5000-Year-Old Metropolis

The Times of Israel reports that the city is the “largest Early Bronze Age settlement excavated in Israel”. Estimates state that the urban center would have been regarded as a metropolis in the Bronze Age and probably had a population of 6,000 inhabitants. It is also very possibly one of the earliest cities in history.

The city was well-planned, and it was situated in a fertile area, which was also on some important trade routes. It was probably very rich for its time and people from a diverse range of cultures possibly lived side-by-side. Itai Elad, Paz, and Dr. Dina Shalem, excavation directors at the site, stated that the city was “the Early Bronze Age New York of our region; a cosmopolitan and planned city”, reports the Times of Israel .

The city was enclosed by walls and fortifications and there were also public spaces and private dwellings that were built around squares. Some alleys and streets have also been uncovered. The sophistication of “the remains exposed indicates an organized society and a social hierarchy”, according to the Xinhua news site.

Ritual Temple

A very large public building was also uncovered and inside was a number of burnt animal bones. These were possibly a result of animal sacrifices suggesting that the structure was a temple or a shrine. Also found here were some figurines including a human head and the imprint of a man with his hands up and next to him an animal figure. This find is allowing researchers to understand the spiritual life and religious practices of the ancient inhabitants.

The city was probably inhabited by ancient Caninities. It was built at a time when they were adopting a more complex style of living and social organization. The Canaanites greatly influenced the early Hebrews, despite them often being enemies.

Among the finds made at the site were Bronze Age figurines from Egypt which indicates that the city was an important trading center. Also found were “flint tools, millions of pottery sherds and basalt stone vessels” reports the Times of Israel .

Archaeologists have been trying to preserve the site for the past two years. This large-scale project was made possible by the financial support of the National Transport Infrastructure Company Ltd. Some 5,000 students, both Arabs and Jews, volunteered to work on the excavations and to help in the conservation of the site.

Figurines from the Early Bronze Age excavation site near modern Harish. (Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

7000-Year-Old Remains

Under the 5000-year-old streets and structures, archaeologists have found some remains that date from 7000 years ago, to the period known as the Copper Age or Chalcolithic era. The Times of Israel , quoting Shalem said that “The excavation at this site revealed two main settlements”. The earlier settlement was much smaller than the later urban center. The Bronze Age city was built over the remains of the Copper Age settlement.

Paz and Shalam are quoted by The Jewish Press as stating that the “site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization”. The sophistication in the Bronze Age city may indicate a hierarchical society and may even provide evidence for an early state. The discovery of the city is also adding greatly to our knowledge of the evolution of the Canaanites in Ancient Israel.


Largest Ever Roman Basilica of its Kind Unearthed in Israel

The biggest Roman basilica of its kind ever found in Israel has been unearthed in the city of Ashkelon. The excavation of the 2,000-year-old basilica is being conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) within a development project of the Tel Ashkelon National Park and the structure will soon be available for the public to view.

The structure was initially unearthed in the 1920s by a British archaeologist named John Garstang who covered it back up. Nearly a century later, it was re-excavated and is now almost ready for public viewing. In fact, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) has even reconstructed a portion of the colonnade.

The building has three sections – a main hall area with two side areas. There were gigantic 13-meter-high marble columns (43 feet) in the main hall that contained beautiful decorations such as plant motifs and an eagle. Even a small theatre (called an odeon) was unearthed at the site.

Dr. Rachel Bar Nathan, who is the IAA director of excavation (along with Saar Ganor and Federico Kobrin), said, “Garstang had already calculated the dimensions of the building, and seeing the remains of the marble columns, made with materials imported from Asia Minor, he had suggested that the basilica dated back to the time of King Herod the Great, since historian Josephus described how the king built a colonnaded hall and other structures in the city.”

This suggests that the basilica is from around the 1st century BCE, but “…the more grandiose elements, the marbles, the columns, were built later, around the 2nd-3rd century CE, the time of Emperor Septimius Severus style,” Bar Nathan explained.

Additional artifacts found at the site included Herodian coins and numerous large marble sculptures from Severus’ time. Some of the sculptures depicted pagan goddesses like Isis and Nike.

Interestingly, the basilica was not used as a religious building during Roman times. Instead, it was a public building located in the middle of the city where people went for court cases, commerce, and additional civic events. But as centuries went by, Christian churches were inspired by the basilica’s architectural design.

Unfortunately, the basilica was destroyed in 363 CE when an earthquake hit the Ashkelon area. Some of the building’s remains were re-used between the 8 th and the 12th centuries during the Abbasid and Fatimid time periods for the construction of an industrial area. Thankfully, Garstang found the structure in the 1920s and it was rediscovered again in more recent times. Remnants of the earthquake are seen on the structure’s floors as they were heavily damaged.


5,000 Year Old City, Largest in Ancient Israel, Exposed in Sharon Valley

Excavations at an archaeological research site, En Esur (Ein Asawir), located near Wadi Ara north of Tel Aviv in the Sharon Valley have uncovered a 5000 year old city about ten times the size of Jericho. It includes remnants of fortification walls, residential areas, public squares, pottery fragments, flint tools, basalt stone vessels, and an ancient road system, the Jewish Press reported. This is about the same time era as some of the Egyptian pharaohs for historical reference.

"This is a huge city — a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area," said Itai Elad, Dr. Yitzhak Paz, and Dr. Dina Shalem, Excavation Directors speaking on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “…There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization in Israel.”

“This is a fascinating period in the history of the Land of Israel – Canaan of those days – whose population undergoes changes altering its face completely,” the excavation director trio continued. “The rural population gives way to a complex society living mostly in urban settings. These are the first steps in Canaanite culture to consolidate its identity in newly established urban sites hence the immense importance of the ancient city exposed in the northern Sharon.”


Paradigm Shift: New Discovery at En Esur Changes Everything

A new discovery has been made in Northern Israel and according to excavation director Yitzhak Paz, “The study of this site will change forever what we know about the emergence [and] rise of urbanization in the land of Israel and in the whole region.” Further, he explained “And it means that what we know now will change what is written today in the traditional books when people read about the archaeology of Israel.” Here is what we know about this new discovery.

As reported at The Friends of Israel Antiquities Authority, just over two and a half years ago, while preparing to construct a highway interchange to provide access to the town of Harish near Haifa, the National Transport Infrastructure Company, Ltd. conducted a standard excavation in advance of construction. When they did, they unexpectedly unearthed a major Bronze Age settlement at a site called En Esur. Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist and excavation co-director Dina Shalem stated, “Even in our wildest imaginings, we didn’t believe we would find a city from this time in history.”

Photo Credit: Israeli Antiquities Authority

Being dubbed “The New York of the Early Bronze Age,” an ancient city has been discovered in Northern Israel where none was supposed to be. Co-director Dr. Yitzhak Paz added, “There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and beginning of urbanization in Israel,” he said in a press release from the IAA.

Researchers have dated the city to around 3,000 BC and have discovered that it rests on top of a former city they believe is even older, a suggested 2,000 years older. The directors stated, “This is the Early Bronze Age New York of our region a cosmopolitan and planned city where thousands of inhabitants lived.” The city spans over 160 acres with the capacity to accommodate approximately 6,000 people. Including the out-lying areas, it stretches to around 700 acres, said co-director, Dr. Yitzhak Paz. (See evidence of an ancient thinker figurine from Canaan.)

This ancient New York is more than 10 times the size of Jericho and is the largest city from this period in the southern Levant. Clearly visible are well planned public amenities including streets, public spaces, residential areas and a fortification wall. According to reports, the city was undoubtedly the result of organizational planning with a clear social hierarchy and governance. (For another example of a biblical kingdom with previously unappreciated levels of development, see Evidence of Ancient Kingdom of Edom.)

Photo Credit: Israeli Antiquities Authority

Notable public spaces include a cemetery and a remarkably large building consistent with a temple. The size leads the directors to speculate that it could have possibly been two stories. Analysis of the building contents have revealed burned animal bones consistent with ritual sacrifices and a wash basin in the courtyard, speculated to have been connected to ritual purification. Additionally, figurines, seal impressions, flint tools, pottery fragments and other personal items have been recovered. Especially interesting is the presence of tools traceable to Egypt and items from other remote locations, which give clear evidence of established trade with outside cultures. All in all, fragments including pottery fragments number in the millions of pieces.

Photo credit: Israeli Antiquities Authority

Remains of 5,000-year-old ancient city unearthed by Israeli archaeologists

The remains of a large, 5,000-year-old city have been discovered in Israel, shedding new light on experts’ understanding of the period, researchers say.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority said the early Bronze Age settlement – a “cosmopolitan and planned city” – covered 160 acres and was home to about 6,000 people.

“In this city, we have a planned settlement with a whole net of streets and alleys and squares, and drainage installations, storage installation,” Yitzhak Paz, a director of excavation on behalf of the authority, said.

The city, called En Esur (Ein Asawir), was discovered during preparations for a road interchange project near Harish, a town some 50km (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv.

Researchers said the discovery “dramatically changes” their understanding of the period – a time in which a rural, agrarian society was beginning to establish urban sites.

They said residents made their living from agriculture and traded with other regions and kingdoms.

Among the discoveries was an unusual ritual temple, burnt animal bones – evidence of sacrificial offerings – and a figurine of a human head.

There also were millions of pottery fragments, flint tools and stone vessels.

“The remains of residential buildings, diverse facilities and the public buildings are an indication of the organised society and the social hierarchy that existed at the time,” researchers said.

The Antiquities Authority said that during the dig, archaeologists also found evidence of an earlier settlement dating back 7,000 years underneath the city’s houses.

It said that two nearby springs were likely to have drawn people to the area.

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Teens unearth 5,000-year-old city near Hadera

The remains of a 5,000-year-old city unearthed near Ein Iron.

A 5,000-year-old metropolis, the largest uncovered in Israel to date, has been excavated near Ein Iron, northeast of Hadera.

The city, which dates back to the Early Bronze Age (the end of the 4th century BCE), was surrounded by walls and included residential and public areas, streets and alleyways.

It had an area of 161 acres and was home to an estimated 6,000 residents.

The Bronze Age metropolis was constructed on the remains of an even earlier city that dates back 7,000 years to the Chalcolithic Period. Two natural springs located nearby apparently served as the impetus to build communities on the site.

Some 5,000 teens and volunteers took part in the excavation under the auspices of an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) project designed to instill a connection to Israel’s ancient heritage and a sense of belonging in the younger generations, as well as awareness of the importance of archaeological preservation.

IAA archaeologists Itai Elad, Yitzhak Paz and Dina Shalem, who directed the dig, said there was “no doubt” that the findings would dramatically change what researchers knew about the Early Bronze Age and the beginnings of urbanization in the Land of Israel.

“This was an exciting time in the history of the land, which was then Canaan, and whose populations underwent changes that changed the face of [the land] entirely.

“The rural population gave way to a complex society, most of whom lived in urban settings.

“These were the first steps the Canaanite culture took in the Land of Israel, which took on its own character in the urban sites it founded . . . A city like this could not have arisen without someone to plan it and an administrative mechanism that was responsible for its construction.

“The impressive planning and the fact that tools imported to [Canaan] from Egypt and seals have been discovered at the site are testimony of that.

‘There was an enormous city here — a megalopolis in Early Bronze Age terms — where thousands of people lived, making a living from agriculture and who traded with other regions and even other cultures and kingdoms in the area.”

D iscoveries at the ancient city include an unusually large temple that features a giant stone basin used in religious rites and an altar on which burned animal bones were unearthed, proof of animal sacrifices.

The dig also turned up rare idols, including one of a human head.

The surprising discoveries allow researchers to characterize the culture of the peoples who lived in the area in earlier times. The nearby springs and open spaces facilitated agriculture. The remains of the homes and public structures indicate an organized society with a clear hierarchy.

Like so many archaeological discoveries in Israel, the city was unearthed as part of the preliminary infrastructure work — in this case, preparations to construct a new highway interchange providing an exit to the newly-developed city Harish.

Confronted with an unexpected ancient “New York,” the Israel National Roads Co. has changed its plans for the highway and will build an overpass to allow the city to be preserved in situ so researchers can continue to delve into its secrets.


Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered a Bronze Age ‘New York City’

Archaeologists have unearthed a 5000-year-old “New York City” in northern Israel, and the ancient find might rewrite history.

These weird archaeological discoveries provide a window into the cultures of the past.

These weird archaeological discoveries provide a window into the cultures of the past.

An archaeologist shows a figurine found at a newly-discovered large, 5,000-year-old city in northern Israel. Picture: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov Source:AP

Israeli archaeologists say they have discovered a large, 5000-year-old city in northern Israel.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority have revealed that the ancient city was discovered during preparations for a highway overpass near Harish, a town 50 kilometres north of Tel Aviv.

It calls the site a 𠇌osmopolitan and planned city” that dates to the early Bronze Age.

The Canaanite megalopolis is thought to have covered 65 hectares and was probably home to about 6000 people.

Israeli archaeologists work at the ancient site of En Esur (Ein Asawir) where a 5000-year-old city was uncovered, near the Israeli town of Harish on October 06, 2019. Picture: Jack Guez/AFP Source:AFP

A large, 5000-year-old city has been discovered in northern Israel. Picture: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov Source:AP

A picture taken on October 06, 2019 shows a figurine of a human face unearthed at the archaeological site. Picture: Jack Guez/AFP Source:AFP

Researchers say they discovered an unusual ritual temple, burnt animal bones — evidence of sacrificial offerings — and a figurine of a human head as well as pottery fragments, flint tools and stone vessels.

Researchers say the discoveries provide new insight into their understanding of the period when rural populations began to gather into urban settings.

Among the interesting artefacts discovered at the site were several figurines and tools imported from Egypt.

Flint tools, millions of pottery shards and basalt stone vessels were also found.

“These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times,” according to the IAA statement.

It is during this era, said the statement, that Canaan’s populations moved from rural to mostly urban environments.

One of the small animal figurines that were discovered. Picture: Jack Guez/AFP Source:AFP

Archaeologists discovered the city during preparations for a new highway interchange near Harish, a town north of Tel Aviv. Picture: AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov Source:AP

An aerial view of the ancient city. Picture: Jack Guez/AFP Source:AFP

The city is the largest Early Bronze Age settlement ever excavated in Israel.

“It is much larger than any known site in the land of Israel — and outside the land of Israel — in the region of Jordan, Lebanon, southern Syria,” said excavation co-director Dr. Yitzhak Paz in a video made by Israel’s Antiquities Authority.

“This is a huge city — a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area … This is the Early Bronze Age New York of our region a cosmopolitan and planned city,” said excavation directors Itai Elad, Paz and Dr. Dina Shalem in an IAA statement.

The importance of the discovery has meant that the plans for the highway interchange will now be altered in order to preserve the excavations.


6-year-old boy discovers 3,500-year-old clay tablet depicting ancient captive

An archeological dig in Israel uncovered a secret 'piggy bank' of 1,200-year-old gold coins.

A 6-year-old boy in Israel has discovered a 3,500-year-old clay tablet depicting an ancient captive and his captor.

Imri Elya found the tablet during a hiking trip to the Tel Jemmeh archaeological site in the Negev desert with his parents, according to the Times of Israel. He picked up the small clay object and showed it to his parents, who contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority. Officials at the Israel Antiquities Authority then handed the artifact to the country’s National Treasures Department.

The tablet, thought to be from the ancient Canaanite civilization, depicts a captor leading a naked captive. Experts note that at the time the tablet was created, the Egyptian Empire ruled the land of Canaan, which was composed of “city-states” ruled by local kings. Some 3,500 years ago, the region was riven with conflict between the Canaanite kings.

"The artist who created this tablet appeared to have been influenced by similar representations known in Ancient Near East art,” said archaeologists Saar Ganor, Itamar Weissbein and Oren Shmueli of the Israel Antiquities Authority in a statement emailed to Fox News. “The manner in which the captive is bound has been seen previously in reliefs and artifacts found in Egypt and northern Sinai."

The clay tablet. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Imri received a certificate of good citizenship from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Israel continues to reveal new aspects of its rich history. Hidden underground chambers dating back 2,000 years, for example, were recently discovered near the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In another project, an Iron Age temple complex discovered near Jerusalem is shedding new light on an ancient Biblical city.

Imri Elya with the ancient tablet and the certificate of recognition given to him by the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Last year, the room in Jerusalem venerated as the site of Jesus’ Last Supper was revealed in stunning detail thanks to remarkable 3D laser scanning technology.


5,000-Year-Old Fingerprint Found on Pottery Shard Unearthed in Scotland

Around 3000 B.C., a potter in what’s now Scotland’s Orkney archipelago left a fingerprint on a clay vessel. Some 5,000 years later, the mark remains visible, offering a rare glimpse into the ancient ceramic’s creation.

As David Walker reports for the Press and Journal, researchers discovered the print on a pottery shard found at the Ness of Brodgar, an archaeological site that features a huge complex of Neolithic buildings. Though scholars have unearthed a large collection of ancient pottery at the site, this is the first historic fingerprint recorded there.

“Working on such a high-status site as the Ness of Brodgar, with its beautiful buildings and stunning range of artifacts, it can be all too easy to forget about the people behind this incredible complex,” says excavation director Nick Card in a statement. “But this discovery really does bring these people back into focus.”

Ceramics specialist Roy Towers spotted the print while examining a clay shard, reports the Scotsman’s Alison Campsie. Researchers confirmed that the mark was a fingerprint through reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), which combines photographs captured under different light sources to create a detailed virtual model.

The Ness of Brodgar is part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, which was designated as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1999. The cluster of islands in Scotland’s Northern Isles houses two Neolithic ceremonial stone circles—the Stones of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar—and a large chambered tomb called Maeshowe, as well as the remains of settlements and other ancient sites.

Archaeologists discovered the ruins of ancient buildings on the Ness of Brodgar isthmus, between the two stone circles, in 2002. Excavations since then have uncovered decorated stone slabs and a large building believed to be a Neolithic temple, as well as the largest collection of late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery in the U.K., notes the Press and Journal. This style of pottery includes drinking cups, buckets, basins and other flat-bottomed vessels that were typically decorated with geometric patterns.

Researchers first discovered the Neolithic site at the Ness of Brodgar in 2002. (S Marshall via Wikimedia Commons under CC SA 4.0)

Writing on the Ness of Brodgar’s website, Towers explains that people at the Orkney site probably began producing the Grooved Ware ceramics around 3200 B.C. The practice continued for the next 700 years or so, with pottery styles changing significantly over time. Some of the many ceramic shards found at the site, for instance, featured red, black and white coloring.

The artisans’ work reflects the “talented, sophisticated, puzzling and outlandish (only to our modern minds) souls who made this abundance of pottery,” according to Towers. “And the pottery, even the most humble, crumbliest body sherd, is the key to understanding some of their thinking and gaining access, however limited, to their minds and thinking.”

Per the Scotsman, the Ness of Brodgar site was part of a period of cultural development that began to take shape around 4000 B.C., when farmers from northwestern and northern France arrived in Scotland and spread across the region. Orkney’s inhabitants developed a prosperous cattle farming culture and, between 3300 and 2800 B.C., built monuments and large houses, in addition to creating new art forms like the Grooved Ware pottery.

Per BBC News , ancient fingerprints are not uncommon finds at archaeological sites, which often contain a plethora of pottery. The researchers hope to further analyze the newly discovered fingerprint to determine the gender and age of the potter.

“Although finding the fingerprint impression won’t hugely impact our work, it does give us a highly personal, poignant connection to the people of Neolithic Orkney, 5,000 years ago,” says Card in the statement.

About Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance journalist based in New Hampshire. She has written for JSTOR Daily, the Daily Beast, the Boston Globe, HuffPost, and Vice, among others.