Archaeology in Israel Update--October 2012

By Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg
W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research
November 2012

Vast Underground Iron-Age Reservoir in Jerusalem

While digging out the ancient drainage channels under the Western Wall, archaeologist Eli Shukron felt the floor give way and discovered a large underground cistern or reservoir measuring 12m by 5m and 4.5m high which is calculated to hold about 250 cubic meters of rainwater. This is the first large reservoir found so near to the Temple Mount. Archaeologists think that it served pilgrims and worshippers who had previously been thought to have gone down to the Siloam Pool. The reservoir is similar to ones of the same period found in Beersheba and Bet Shemesh, according to Dr. Tvika Tsuk of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, an expert on ancient water systems. The rock walls of the facility were plastered to retain the water and the fingerprints of the craftsmen are still visible. Original public access to the pool is not evident, and when found it is hoped it can be opened to the public.

Neolithic Beads and Figurines from Western Galilee

A large agricultural settlement extending over 20 hectares (50 acres) has been uncovered at Ein Zippori in western Galilee. It is related to the Wadi Rabah culture that prevailed in Israel in the sixth to fifth millennia BCE. Collections of decorative beads in a large basin, ostrich images and figurines were uncovered and exhibited before the press. The site excavators claim that these and other items are evidence of an early agricultural economy with extensive trade links.

Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens Interbred in Carmel

At the Nahal Me'arot caves in the Carmel range, recently granted UNESCO Heritage status, archeologists have found tools of both Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens in close proximity. Daniel Kaufmann, working at the site, claims that the interbreeding of the two species, which genetic research has suggested existed in non-aggressive mating between the two sub-species. According to Kaufman, it appears that both species lived peacefully side by side as early as 80,000 years ago.

Human Remains in a Deep Well in the Jezreel Valley

In an emergency excavation preceding the enlargement of a junction at Enot Nisanit on Road 66 in the western Jezreel Valley, archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have uncovered a well approximately 8m deep and 1.3m in diameter. The large diameter was reduced by two capstones set over the mouth. At the bottom of the well were found skeletal remains of a young woman and an older man of thirty or forty years of age. The excavation director Yoram Tepper thinks the water became undrinkable after the bodies had fallen into the well, and many romantic suggestions have been made as to why the two skeletons were found here together. The well shaft also contained remains of animal bones, charcoal and other organic materials which have enabled the finds, including the human bones, to be dated to the early Neolithic period, about 8,500 years ago. A deep well of this early period is unique in Israel, according to Dr. Omri Barzilai of the IAA Prehistoric Branch, and indicates the population's impressive knowledge of the hydrology of the area and their ability to work together to undertake such a considerable community project.

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