Stunning find:
Watch: 'Early Bronze Age New York of our region'

Archaeological excavations in northern Hasharon uncover vast 5,000-year-old city, one of the first and largest of the ancient Near East.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Archaeologist in action (illustration)
Archaeologist in action (illustration)

Massive excavations, initiated by Netivei Israel – the National Transport Infrastructure Company Ltd, carrying out groundwork for the construction of an interchange entry road to the Harish settlement, uncovered an even more ancient 7,000-year-old settlement, whose dimensions came as a shocking surprise.

A vast city, around 5000 years old, the largest and the most central ever uncovered in Israel, was uncovered during extensive excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority that have been in progress for two and a half years in the Ein Iron area of northern Hasharon. The excavations, revealing a city stretching over 650 dunams accommodating around 6,000 inhabitants, are being carried out prior to the construction of the Harish settlement interchange, a project initiated and funded by the Netivei Israel Company.

Widespread excavations at the En Esur (Ein Asawir) archaeological site, located near Wadi Ara, reveal a planned Bronze Age 1B city (end of the 4th millennium B.C.), surrounded by a fortification wall, with residential and public areas, streets and alleys .An even earlier settlement, dating to the Chalcolithic period from 7,000 years ago, was uncovered in deeper excavations made beneath this city's houses. It seems that two abundant springs originating in the area in antiquity were a site of attraction throughout the period.

Approximately 5,000 teenagers and volunteers participated in the excavations as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority's Sharing Heritage Project, which aims to create an emotional and experiential connection to the past and cultural heritage, develop a sense of belonging to the land, and an awareness of the importance of preserving its antiquities. Participants included Mateh Menashe Regional Council students, Mechina (pre-army program) cadets, Eretz Israel and Archaeology study track students, service year participants, Garinei Nahal members, special education students, as well as the participation of students and joint groups of Jews and Arabs in collaboration with the SHARE International Organization.

According to Noah Shaul, a guide on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The challenges the archaeological excavation presented the students, and the uncovering of its findings, contributed both to their personal development and enriched their acquaintance with the country's landscape, its sites and history."

According to Itai Elad, Dr. Yitzhak Paz and Dr. Dina Shalem, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization in Israel. This is a fascinating period in the history of the Land of Israel – the Canaan of those days – whose population undergoes changes altering its face completely. The rural population gives way to a complex society living mostly in urban settings. These are the first steps in the country of Canaanite culture consolidating its identity in newly established urban sites; hence the immense importance of the ancient city exposed in northern Hasharon .Such a city could not develop without having behind it a guiding hand and an administrative mechanism. Its impressive planning, the tools brought to Israel from Egypt found at the site, and its seal impressions are proof of this. 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."

In the public area of the city, archaeologists discovered an unusual ritual temple striking in its dimensions, and in its courtyard a huge stone basin for liquids used during performance of religious rituals. A facility containing burnt animal bones - evidence of sacrificial offerings - as well as rare figurines, including a human head with the seal impression of a man hands lifted and next to him the figure of an animal, were uncovered inside the temple. These findings allow us to look beyond the material into the spiritual life of the large community that lived at the site. "

These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times .The inhabitants earned a living from agriculture thanks to the nearby springs, and the land used for crops. The remains of residential buildings, diverse facilities and the public buildings are an indication of the organized society and the social hierarchy that existed at the time. The excavation revealed millions of pottery fragments, flint tools, and basalt stone vessels that were brought to the site, and more.

Following the Israel Antiquities Authority's exposure of the unique excavations site, Netivei Israel carried out planning changes to protect the site of this impressive city. The archaeological ruins are documented using advanced means; they will be covered in a controlled manner, studied and investigated by IAA researchers, and the new interchange will be built high above these ruins, to permit its preservation for future generations.