Vast 9,000-year-old 'metropolis' discovered buried near Jerusalem

Israeli archaeologists claim to have found Middle East’s largest ever Neolithic excavation

Vast 9,000-year-old 'metropolis' discovered buried near Jerusalem

An enormous Neolithic settlement described by archaeologists as an ancient “metropolis” has been discovered only three miles outside of Jerusalem.

The 9,000-year-old site was located next to the modern day town of Motza by scientists with the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) – who claimed it represented a “Big Bang” moment in the field of prehistorical research.

“It’s a game changer, a site that will drastically shift what we know about the Neolithic era,” Jacob Vardi, co-director of the excavations at the site.

Stretching over half a kilometre, the Stone Age city would have been home to around 3,000 people. Mr Vardi described the complex society as the ancient equivalent of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv – “a real metropolis”.

Before the discovery, it was widely believed the entire area had been uninhabited in the period, during which people were still shifting from hunting to a more sedentary lifestyle.

The ruins were only uncovered during a preliminary survey conducted for the construction of a new highway in the area.

A wider excavation exposed large buildings, alleyways and burial places, evidence of a relatively advanced level of planning, the antiquities authority said in a statement.

“This is most probably the largest excavation of this time period in the Middle East, which will allow the research to advance leaps and bounds ahead of where we are today, just by the amount of material that we are able to save and preserve from this site,” said Lauren Davis, an archaeologist with the antiquities team.

Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Jacob Vardi at Motza site

The team also found storage sheds that contained large quantities of legumes, particularly lentils, whose seeds were remarkably preserved throughout the millennia.

Also found were flint tools, including thousands of arrowheads, axes for chopping down trees, sickle blades and knives.

“This finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture,” according to the IAA statement. “Animal bones found on the site show that the settlement’s residents became increasingly specialised in sheep-keeping, while the use of hunting for survival gradually decreased.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

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