Published February 18, 2014
The remains of an ancient rural town that was occupied 2,300 years ago were uncovered by archaeologists probing a site ahead of a plan to construct a gas pipeline.
Located on the outskirts of Jerusalem, the 8,000 square foot site revealed a small settlement with single-family stone houses and a network of narrow alleys.
"The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards," excavation director for the Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) Irina Zilberbod said in a statement.
The town was occupied for two centuries between 516 BC and 70, a time known as the Second Temple period. Constructed by the legendary builder of ancient Jerusalem King Herod, the Second Temple was a holy place of worship for the Jewish people, where the Dome of the Rock stands today.
Basalt and limestone grinding and milling tools for domestic use, pottery cooking pots, jars for storing oil and wine, and more than sixty coins, including coins from the reigns of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus were uncovered.
The town inhabitants were thought to have cultivated orchards and vineyards to make a living, the IAA said. But the ancient site was eventually abandoned, probably when the townspeople decided to move to the city to seek out better job opportunity.
"The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod the Great's succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea," Jerusalem regional archaeologist Yuval Baruch explained. "And it may be related to Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects."
Archaeologists are still stumped as to what the name of the village might have been, but it sits near the famous Burma Road, a supply route American General Mickey Marcus helped create during the siege of Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Marcus' effort inspired the Kirk Douglas 1966 classic, "Cast A Giant Shadow."
In light of the finds, construction plans for the gas line have been revised to make the ancient site available for the public to visit.