Archaeologists discover Stone Age metropolis

9, 000 year old city in Israel had up to 3, 000 inhabitants

40 hectares and astonishingly modern: View of the remains of the Stone Age city discovered near Jerusalem. © Eyal Marco / Israel Antiquities Authority
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Older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids: Not far from Jerusalem, archaeologists have discovered a surprisingly large and progressive Stone Age city. Around 9, 000 years ago, up to 3, 000 people lived and worked there. The settlement already had regularly arranged residential buildings, public buildings and a network of roads. Jewelry, tools and everyday objects also testify to trade relations to Anatolia and the Red Sea.

The Middle East is one of the hotspots of human history. Already 190, 000 years ago, the first representatives of Homo sapiens who had emigrated from Africa lived there. Millennia later, the first forerunners of sedentary peasant cultures developed there with the Natufien culture. These Stone Age people were already brewing beer, decorating the graves of their dead and even running quarries.

Ruins of 9, 000-year-old houses. © Israel Antiquities Authority

9, 000 year old city

How advanced the Stone Age inhabitants of this region were is now documented by a discovery made by archaeologists only five kilometers west of Jerusalem. Near the village Motza they come to the remains of a monumental stone age city. About 9, 000 years ago, rectangular, almost-normal residential buildings, public buildings and ritual sites, such as the Researchers report.

"This is the first time such a large Neolithic settlement has been discovered in Israel, " report excavation leaders Hamoudi Khaleily and Jacob Vardi. "At least 2, 000 to 3, 000 inhabitants once lived here this is a magnitude that corresponds to today's cities!" The Stone Age town of Motza is about as large as the almost same atalh y k in Anatolia and thousands of years older than the Stone Age monuments of Stonehenge.

Roads, warehouses and lots of tools

However, in contrast to atalh y k, the Stone Age metropolis of Motza was already much more urban-planning. While the inhabitants of the Anatolian city were only able to reach their dwellings by ladders because the houses stood wall to wall, the newly discovered Stone Age city already had a network of straight roads, as the excavations reveal llten. The residents also used plaster to seal floors or walls. display

As the inhabitants of the Stone Age city lived, thousands of flint tools and everyday objects betrayed. These include arrowheads for hunting, zumxte to Holzf llen and sickles and knives. The archaeologists found remains of lentils and other vegetables in the ruins of several large buildings on the outskirts of town here the residents apparently stored their crops. Animal bones bear witness to the fact that they covered their meat requirements mainly through hunting, but later switched to sheep farming.

Close-up of some pearls found in the Stone Age city. Israel Antiquities Authority

Far-reaching trade relations

Exciting also: The inhabitants of the Stone Age metropolis at Motza were apparently already well connected. Because in the trees lying between the houses, the researchers discovered not only countless pieces of jewelery and figures, but also objects made of non-native materials. "We found carefully crafted alabaster beads, but also medallions and bracelets made of mother of pearl, " report Khaleily and Vardi. Objects of obsidian, shell shells and a still unknown rock type were also included.

"These grave goods show that the inhabitants of this place already operated at this time Tauaschhandel with far away regions", say the researchers. Because the obsidian came from Anatolia, mother of pearl and shell shells came from both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Surprising situation in the "nowhere"

Amazing is the newly discovered Stone Age metropolis at Motza but not only because of their size and "modernity" - it is also in unexpected place. "Until now, it was believed that the territory of Judea was largely empty at that time, " explain the archaeologists. For the previously known Stone Age settlements and sites were rather beyond the Jordan and in the north of the Levant.

The area around present-day Jerusalem is characterized by a desert-like plateau and was therefore not necessarily an optimal settlement area. "But instead of a Neolithic uninhabited area, we have now discovered a complex site where people used various economic strategies to sustain their lives, " the researchers said. "That changes our whole idea of ​​the Neolithic period in this area."

The archaeologists are currently working on digitally recording and mapping the city and its finds. In addition, measures are taken to preserve the Stone Age remains.

Source: Israel Antiques Authority

- Nadja Podbregar