Photograph: Dr. Ya’akov Vardi, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
A new site dating to the Stone Age was exposed in large scale archaeological excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out at Ahihud Junction prior to the construction of a new railroad line to Karmiel by the National Roads Company. In the excavations, which are spread over 1,800 square meters, remains of two main periods were discovered: the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period and the Early Chalcolithic period (seventh millennium BCE – fifth millennium BCE).
According to Dr. Yitzhak Paz and Dr. Yaʽakov Vardi, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “For the first time in the country, entire buildings and extensive habitation levels were exposed from these early periods, in which the rich material culture of the local residents was discovered”.
The ancient settlement remains ascribed to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic period were discovered on top of the bedrock in which the ancient inhabitants hew different installations, and even built plaster floors in several spots. “We found a large number of flint and obsidian arrowheads, polished miniature stone axes, blades and other flint and stone tools.
The large amount of tools made of obsidian, a material that is not indigenous to Israel, is indicative of the trade relations that already existed with Turkey, Georgia and other regions during this period”. According to the archaeologists, “Another unique find that can be attributed to this period is the thousands of charred broad bean seeds that were discovered together inside a pit. The Neolithic and Chalcolithic societies were agrarian societies that resided in villages, and it was during these periods that the agricultural revolution took place, when plants and animals were domesticated. This is one of the earliest examples of the proper cultivation of legumes in the Middle East”.
The remains of the Early Chalcolithic period (fifth millennium BCE) that were revealed at the Ahihud site include a village where there were a number of buildings with rectilinear rooms. Inside the buildings’ walls, which were very thick, were discovered installations that were built of stone and clay, some of which were covered with plaster. Remains of the Wadi Rabah culture were revealed inside the buildings and in the open areas between them.
These include a large number of pottery vessels indicative of a highly developed pottery industry, flint tools, stone objects, as well as a number of unique artistic artifacts, among them a phallic figurine and a palette on which female genitals are schematically etched – these symbols also represented the fertility of the earth.
A preliminary analysis of the animal bones discovered at the site shows that pigs were a principal staple in the diet of the inhabitants.
According to Shay Baras, director-general of National Roads Company of Israel, “We welcome the opportunity to be partners in a discovery of international scientific value. The salvage excavations were carried out within the framework of diverting Route 85, as part of the construction of the Karmiel railroad track. The request by the Israel Antiquities Authority to continue its work at the site, as a result of the important discovery, will cause a two month postponement in the schedule for building the railway line. The project managers accepted the challenge and have therefore adapted the subsequent steps in the project’s implementation in order to reduce the impact of the delays on the schedule”.