Archaeologists announced Sunday that they had discovered the remains of a massive bronze age settlement in northern Israel that could "change forever what we know about emergence of urbanization in entire area." The site was discovered in Israel's newest city, Harish, during excavations in preparation for a new highway interchange, which seems to be how about half of all recent history changing discoveries are made.
The 5,000-year old megalopolis covers 160 acres and is the largest Bronze Age settlement ever discovered in Israel. In addition, the Times of Israel reports that archaeologists found remains of an even earlier, 7,000-year old Chalcolithic settlement beneath the 5,000 year old buildings. That's a pretty good find. Dr. Yitzhak Paz, co-director of the excavation, says:
“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.”
The site is filled with artifacts and that tell a story of a bustling Bronze age metropolis. The city was home to at least 6,000 people and traded with cultures all across the Mediterranean, and according to the archaeologists, the city was very carefully and thoughtfully planned. Excavation directors Itai Elad, Yitzhak Paz and Dina Shalem say in an IAA statement:
“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."
Archaeologists found remains of public and private buildings, streets and alleys, and a fortification wall surrounding the site. The site is in a fertile part of Israel and central to many trade routes, making it the perfect place for a large city. Two large cities, in fact. Dina Salem says in a IAA video:
“The excavation at this site revealed two main settlements. The earliest one is about 7,000 years old. It’s a very large agricultural settlement. Two thousand years later, another settlement became one of the first cities known in this area of the world.”
One of the buildings archaeologists discovered at the site is a temple that may shed some light on the spiritual practices of the Canaanites who lived in the city. The temple has a basin in the courtyard that archaeologists assume was used for ritualistic purposes, and a collection of burnt animal bones possibly used for sacrifices were found inside the temple.
Also found were tools, a mysterious cylindrical stamp of a man with his hands in the air, and several figurines of people and animals and tools imported from Egypt.
According to Yitzhak Paz, once it is fully researched and investigated, this site will rewrite history. He says:
“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. 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.”
And as far as the planned highway interchange goes, they decided to just build it higher up as to not destroy the settlement.