500,000 Year Old Village Casts Light on Ancient World in Israel

“And they dwelt in Gilad, in Bashan, and in its dependencies, and in all the pasturelands of Sharon, to their limits.” I Chronicles 5:16 (The Israel Bible™)

A half-million-year-old archaeological site discovered in the Sharon region has given researchers an important window into ancient life in the region,” the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University Archaeology Department said in a joint statement Sunday.

“The extraordinary quantity of flint tools uncovered in the excavation provides significant information about the lifeways of prehistoric humans during the Lower Paleolithic period,” said excavation director Maayan Shemer.

Shemer said that half a million years ago, the availability of potable water, food and flint nodules to make tools made the region, adjacent to the modern Arab city of Jaljulia, favorable for human activity.

“We associate the industry found on site to Homo Erectus – a direct ancestor of the Homo Sapiens, the human species living today. A geological reconstruction of the prehistoric environment shows that the human activity took place in a dynamic environment,  on the banks of an ancient stream possibly Nahal Qaneh, which now flows approximately 500 meters south of the site,” Shemer said.

“This environment is considered to have been rich with vegetation and herding animals, a ‘green spot’ in the landscape,” she added.

According to Prof. Ran Barkai, head of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University, the site will enable archeologists to trace the behavior of our direct prehistoric ancestors and reconstruct their lifestyle.

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“It’s hard to believe that between Jaljulia and Route 6, just five meters below the surface, an ancient landscape some half-a-million years old has been so amazingly preserved,” Barkai said. “The past of all human beings is buried in the earth, and we have a one-time opportunity to travel back half a million years and better get to know the ancient humans who lived here before us,” he said.

Researchers at the site found hand axes, the dominant tools used by prehistoric humans as well as other stone tools. For more than a million years, hand axes were used, possibly to dismember large animals such as elephants. Others say that hand axes were the “Swiss Army knife” of the Stone Age and had additional uses such as hunting, hide working and working plant and vegetal material.

According to IAA archeologists, some of them are higher quality than the others as the production was made by craftsmen and others- by someone less qualified

Shemer added that nobody expected to find such amazing findings both, both in terms of their preservation state and their implications about the  understanding of ancient life in Jaljulya. “There are only two sites whose estimated age is close to Jaljulia, in central Israel: One in Kibbutz Eyal, approximately 5 km to the north, and the other, dated to a slightly later cultural phase, at Qesem Cave located approximately 5 km to the south.

“We see here a wide technological variety, and there is no doubt that researching these finds in-depth will contribute greatly to the understanding of the lifestyle and human behavior during the period in which Homo Erectus inhabited our area,” said Shemer.