10,000-year-old house, other ancient finds unearthed in Israel

Story highlights

  • Archaeologists find prehistoric house, temple, axes at construction site
  • Findings provide a "broad picture" of human development over thousands of years
  • Discoveries show evidence of man's transition to permanent dwellings
  • Excavation of the site was done ahead of the widening of a highway
Archaeologists have uncovered rare prehistoric finds while digging at a construction site in Israel, including much of a 10,000-year-old house, a 6,000-year temple as well as axes.
The findings provide a "broad picture" of human development over thousands of years -- from the time when people first started domesticating animals and plants to the early days of urban planning, the Israel Antiquities Authority said. The site will be open to the public Wednesday, it said.
The discoveries, including a house that dates from the eighth millennium B.C., were unearthed at Eshtaol, about 17 miles west of Jerusalem, ahead of the widening of a highway.
"This is the first time that such an ancient structure has been discovered in the Judean Shephelah," the archaeologists said in a prepared statement, referring to the plains west of Jerusalem.
The building, almost all of which was found, seems to have undergone renovations and repairs and represents a time when humans first began living in permanent settlements rather than migrating regularly in search of food.
The team also found a cluster of abandoned flint and limestone axes nearby.
"Here we have evidence of man's transition to permanent dwellings and that in fact is the beginning of the domestication of animals and plants; instead of searching out wild sheep, ancient man started raising them near the house," the archaeologists said.
The excavators said they also discovered the remains of a temple built in in the second half of the fifth millennium B.C., including a 4-foot-high stone column weighing several hundred kilograms.
The standing stone, smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, was erected with one of its sides facing east, they said, suggesting the presence of a temple at the site.
"The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages," Amir Golani, one of the excavation directors for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in the statement.
The findings provide evidence of rural society making the transition to urban society in the early Bronze Age, about 5,000 years ago, he added.
"We can see distinctly a settlement that gradually became planned, which included alleys and buildings that were extremely impressive from the standpoint of their size and the manner of their construction," Golani said.
"We can clearly trace the urban planning and see the guiding hand of the settlement's leadership that chose to regulate the construction in the crowded regions in the center of the settlement and allowed less planning along its periphery."