Shalom Life | May 08, 2014

2,300-Year-Old Village Discovered Near Jerusalem

The town from the period of the Second Temple was found by archaeologists, and has since been excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority

By: Graham Sigurdson

Published: February 18th, 2014 in News » Israel

In June 2013, Israel Natural Gas Lines (INGL) began work on their 22 mile-long project which would run from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem.

During the work, the remains of a 2,300-year-old village was discovered, and for the past six months, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been conducting a salvage excavation on the site. The excavations cover an area of about 750 metres and resulted in the finding of the town.

The town consists of a few stone houses and network of narrow alleys. The buildings, which are believed to have each housed a nuclear family, consist of several rooms and courtyards. Irinia Zilberbod, the excavation director on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, noted that “The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards.”

The town is located on a hill almost 900 feet above sea level, with the large tracts of surrounding land used cultivating of orchards and vineyards. The excavations show that the site reached a peak of development during the Hellenistic period (3rd century BCE), when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire, established by one of the lieutenants of Alexander the Great.

It is believed that the town was probably abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty.

Presently, it is not known why the site was abandoned, although it is speculated that it was the result of economic problems and not a violent incident. Dr. Yuval Baruch, a Jerusalem Regional Archaeologist, explained that: “The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod’s rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea, and it may be related to Herod’s massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction at the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects.”

The findings of the excavation were quite diverse, including basalt and limestone tools, pottery cooking pots, jars for oil and wine, pottery oil lamps, and more than sixty coins, including ones from the reigns of Seleucid King Antiochus III and Hasmonean King Alexander Yanai.

As a result of the findings, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the INGL have agreed to revise their plans for the gasline so that the site may be preserved.

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