Archaeologists find 9,000 year old Neolithic village

Israeli archaeologists have discovered a 9,000-year-old Prehistoric settlement in Motza, just outside Jerusalem, believed to be the largest in Israel and one of the largest in the world.

The village is understood to be from the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age). According to Dr Hamoudi Khalaily and Dr Jacob Vardi, excavation directors at Motza on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, at least 2,000 – 3,000 residents lived in the settlement.

The excavations exposed large buildings including rooms that were used for living, as well as public facilities and places of ritual. Between the buildings, alleys were exposed, bearing evidence of the settlement’s advanced level of planning. Other objects found at the settlement were an obsidian blade that came from Anatolia; a thin-walled bowl made of serpentine stone, originating in northern Syria; and large alabaster beads made in ancient Egypt.

Khalaily and Vardi said: “Amongst others, unique stone-made objects were found in the tombs, made of an unknown type of stone, as well as items made of obsidian (volcanic glass) from Anatolia, and sea-shells, some of which were brought from the Mediterranean Sea and some from the Red Sea. During the excavations, artistic hand-made stone bracelets in several styles were found. We also found carefully crafted alabaster beads, as well as medallions and bracelets made of mother of pearl.”

Archaeologists also found an 11th century moat just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the first concrete evidence of the Crusader siege of the city in 1099. The discovery was part of the Mount Zion Archaeological Project, a joint international effort led by Professor Shimon Gibson and Professor James Tabor of the University of North Carolina, in cooperation with D. Rafi Lewis of Ashkelon Academic College.

Although mentioned in several historical documents, until now experts believed the siege was a myth. According to written accounts of the siege, a moat was dug by the Muslim defenders to thwart attackers to the south. Among the discoveries near the site were arrow heads, two cross pendants of the type typically worn by Crusaders, and a 3-inch piece of gold jewellery with pearls, jade and glass, consistent with the Fatimid Muslim style.