An ancient city from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age), the largest known in Israel from that period, has been discovered thanks to work being done on Highway 16 that will connect the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway to southwest Jerusalem. The remains of the city were found near Motza Junction, just west of Jerusalem. The excavation project, initiated and financed by Netivei Israel (National Transport Infrastructure company), was carried out by archeologists Hamoudi Khalaily and Jacob Vardi from the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The excavation site yielded thousands of arrowheads, pieces of jewelry and figurines, some of which were imported from distant places. Obsidian stones from Anatolia, Turkey, and seashells from the Red Sea speak of a developed “international” trade. The city itself, estimated to have been home to 2,000-3,000 residents, which was large for that time, was located five miles west of Jerusalem, next to the Sorek stream in an area where numerous springs made the river banks unusually lush.
Khalaidy and Vardi said that “this is the first time that such a large-scale settlement from the Neolithic Period – 9,000 years ago – has been discovered in Israel.” The excavations exposed large buildings and ritual places. Aerial photos clearly show that the city itself, with its obvious “streets,” seemed to have been well planned.
The storage sheds contained a huge quantity of legumes, especially lentils, which are another sign that this was a well-organized agricultural community. Sheep bones found at the site also indicate that the residents relied on domestic animals more than on hunting game.
This discover had renewed the interests of the scientific community, which might now need to reevaluate old assumptions that at that period in history Judea was a largely uninhabited area.
Amit Re’em, Jerusalem District Archeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority, announced plans to use advanced 3D imaging technology at a visitors’ center that will be established at the site at a later date.