One of the world's most important historic sites ruined by bulldozers

A ROW has broken out in Israel over what archaeologists say is the destruction of one of the world's most important prehistoric sites, containing priceless information about the life of early man as he migrated out of Africa.

Excavations on the upperJordan river have been under way since 1935, but have stopped since water officials sent in bulldozers - in a secret night-time operation - to dig out the area to prevent flooding.

The scientific community is furious. They say the site, which is on a major prehistoric migratory route, contains fossil bones of elephants, rhinos, hippos, birds and reptiles dating back 750,000 years, plus plants and seeds, tree remains and primitive tools used byHomo erectus, the predecessor of Homo sapiens.

"This is one of only a few sites in the world that provides information about the colonisation of the planet by early man coming from Africa," said Prof Na'ama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University's Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, who has written letters of protest to the Israeli government. Twenty-four researchprojects were underway at the site, including studies of flora and fauna, the landscape and climate and the habits of prehistoric man.

The culprit, the Kinneret Drainage Authority, insisted it had to send in the bulldozers as it was vital to dig out the area to prevent flooding of a nearby farming valley, which has flooded in the past, putting lives at risk. It held off for months because of objections by Israel's Antiquities Authority. But finally the drainage authority - exercising what it claims is its legal right - moved in at night without warning.

An official told the Jerusalem Post that all the diggings had been left nearby "so that archaeologists can examine them thoroughly". But the scientists are not reassured. They say that once roughly removed from the soil, prehistoric remains have little value as they have no "context".

The Antiquities Authority condemned the "act of vandalism", lodged a complaint with the police and secured a temporary court order to stop the digging. It says the site is one of the rarest outside Africa, and thus in the world.

"We want these people to be punished because this was a criminal action," said a spokeswoman. "They knew they did not have any permission to do any work there and did it at night, like thieves."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links