8,500 yr old skeletal remains
8,500 yr old skeletal remainsCourtesy IAA / Claire Amit

What were two skeletons doing at the bottom of a rare Stone Age well being excavated in the Jezreel Valley? Both skeletons were dated along with the well to approximately 8,500 years ago.

The excavation was directed by the Israel Antiquities Authority prior to enlarging the Yogev Junction by the National Roads Authority. It will be conserved and displayed to the public, officials said.

Dating to the Neolithic period, the well was discovered while archaeologists were excavating at 'Enot Nisanit' along the western fringes of the Jezreel Valley along Highway 66.

One set of skeletal remains was female – that of a woman, approximately 19 years old – and other other was male, a bit older.

How and why both came to be in the well, whether by accident or murder, “remains a mystery,” an IAA official said.

"What is clear is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well it was no longer used for the simple reason that the well water was contaminated and was no longer potable,” said Yotam Tepper, IAA excavation director.

"The impressive well that was revealed was connected to an ancient farming settlement and it seems the inhabitants used it for their subsistence and living. The upper part of the well was built of stones and its lower part was hewn in the bedrock,” he added.

"Numerous artifacts indicating the identity of the people who quarried it – the first farmers of the Jezreel Valley – were recovered from inside the well.”

The finds included, among other things, deeply denticulated sickle blades knapped from flint which were used for harvesting, as well as arrow heads and stone implements, Tepper said. Excavation of the well shaft yielded animal bones, organic finds and charcoal, which will enable future studies about domestication of plants and animals, and also allow researchers to determine the exact age of the well.

The two oldest wells in the world were previously exposed in Cyprus, according to Dr. Omri Barzilai, head of the IAA Prehistory Branch.