5,000-Year-Old Canaanite “New York City” Rewrites Archaeologists’ Understanding of Region

When a shofar is sounded in a town, Do the people not take alarm? Can misfortune come to a town If Hashem has not caused it? Amos 3:6 (The Israel Bible™)

On Sunday, the Israel Antiquities Authority(IAA) announced the results of excavations at an Early Bronze Age Settlement described as the “New York” of the region. The excavation revealed a much richer culture than previously thought existed and is expected to rewrite what archaeologists thought about Canaanite culture 5,000 years ago. 

 The discovery was made in northern Israel while construction crews were about to construct a new highway interchange near the En Esur archaeological site. The site covers 160 acres making it the largest Early Bronze Age  (2000–1500 BCE) discovered in the region to date

“It is much larger than any known site in the land of Israel — and outside the land of Israel — in the region of Jordan, Lebanon, southern Syria,” said excavation co-director Dr. Yitzhak Paz in an IAA video.

 “This is a huge city – a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area… This is the Early Bronze Age New York of our region; a cosmopolitan and planned city,” said excavation directors Itai Elad, Paz and Dr. Dina Shalem in an IAA statement.

Studying such a large site was no small feat, requiring and 15 “square leaders” and a staff of 300 excavators. In addition, 5,000 high school students and young adults volunteered at the site. The group worked for 2 ½ years at the site.

The city was protected by fortifications some 20 meters long and two meters high and had a cemetery. The people who lived in the ancient city clearly had a rich spiritual life. A ritual temple was found within the ancient city along with rare figurines with human and animal faces. It also included burnt animal bones in a stone basin that considered to be proof of sacrificial offerings.. In the temple courtyard is a large stone basin for liquids, which the archaeologists assume was also used during religious rituals.

Researchers are still studying the more than four million fragments that were found at the site, including pieces of pottery, flint tools and vases of stone and basalt.

Underneath the 5,000-year-old settlement, researchers discovered a 7,000-year-old Chalcolithic agricultural settlement. It is during this era, said the IAA statement, that Canaan’s populations moved from rural to mostly urban environments.

Due to the importance of the site, authorities plan to significantly increased the height of the planned interchange and will preserve the excavations through high-tech documentation and physical conservation

“The study of this site will change forever what we know about the emergence [and] rise of urbanization in the land of Israel and in the whole region,” said Paz. “And it means that what we know now will change what is written today in the traditional books when people read about the archaeology of Israel.”