Archaeologists uncover 7,000-year-old settlement in Jerusalem

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Israeli archaeologists have unearthed a 7,000-year-old settlement in northern Jerusalem, attesting to the establishment of a community that dates back to the fifth millennium B.C.

The excavation exposed two homes with well-preserved remains and floors as well as pottery vessels, flint tools, and a basalt bowl from what is called the Chalcolithic period, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Bones were also recovered of sheep, goat and possibly cattle, which could shed light into the dietary habits of those who lived there.

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Polished flint axe and blades, and a gemstone bead.

Polished flint axe and blades, and a gemstone bead. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

“On completion of the excavations at Shuʻfat, it is quite evident that there was a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times. Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem’s architecture,” Ronit Lupu, director of excavations for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said in a statement.

“This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity. Apart from the pottery, the fascinating flint finds attest to the livelihood of the local population in prehistoric times: Small sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels and polished axes for building, borers and awls, and even a bead made of carnelian (a gemstone), indicating that jewelry was either made or imported,” she said. “The grinding tools, mortars and pestles, like the basalt bowl, attest to technological skills as well as to the kinds of crafts practiced in the local community.”

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Basalt bowl.

Basalt bowl. (Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

During the Chalcolithic period, man started using tools made of copper (chalcos in Greek) for the first time while continuing to use tools made of stone (lithos), hence the name given to the period.

“The Chalcolithic period is known in the Negev, the coastal plain, the Galilee and the Golan, but is almost completely absent in the Judean Hills and Jerusalem,” Omri Barzilai, head of the IAA’s Prehistory Branch, said. “Although in recent years we have discovered a few traces of Chalcolithic settlements, such as those at Abu Gosh, Motza Junction, and the Holyland compound in Jerusalem, they have been extremely sparse. Now, for the first time, we have discovered significant remains from 7,000 years ago.”