Dig Outside of Yerushalayim Reveals Ancient City

MOTZA (Reuters) -
Israeli Antiquity Authority worker cleans stones at an archaeological site in Motza, Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A huge settlement was uncovered near Yerushalayim by Israeli archaeologists, during a survey before the construction of a new highway. The settlement is one of the biggest ever found, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Tuesday.

The team estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people lived there, which would parallel a city by modern standards. It covered dozens of acres near what is today the town of Motza, some 5 km west of Yerushalayim.

Before the discovery, most archaeologists held that the entire area had been uninhabited in the Biblical period.

“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,” Lauren Davis, an archaeologist with Israel’s antiquities authority, told Reuters.

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

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

“This finding is evidence of an intensive practice of agriculture,” according to the statement. “Animal bones found on the site show that the settlement’s residents were increasingly specialized in sheep-keeping.”

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