Excavations of Chalcolithic town in northern Jerusalem
Excavations of Chalcolithic town in northern JerusalemCourtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

During recent excavations ahead of the laying of a road in the Shuafat neighborhood of northern Jerusalem, the remains of an ancient settlement from the Chalcolithic period roughly 7,000 years ago (5th millennium BCE) were unearthed in a significant archaeological find.

The impressive discovery was made during excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), ahead of a new road initiated and financed by Moriah, the Jerusalem Development Company.

Back in the Chalcolithic period, people first began using tools made of copper, known as chalcos in Greek, while continuing to use tools made of stone, which is lithos in Greek - hence the name of the period.

"The Chalcolithic period is known in the Negev, the coastal plain, the Galilee and the Golan, but is almost completely absent in the Judean Hills and Jerusalem," said Dr. Omri Barzilai, Head of the IAA’s Prehistory Branch.

"Although in recent years we have discovered a few traces of Chalcolithic settlements, such as those at Abu Gosh, Motza Junction, and the Holyland compound in Jerusalem, they have been extremely sparse. Now, for the first time, we have discovered significant remains from 7,000 years ago."

Two houses were unearthed in the excavation, revealing well-preserved remains and floors as well as pottery vessels, flint tools, and a basalt bowl, all of which are typical of the Chalcolithic period. IAA reports that the signs of maintenance and stages of construction in the buildings show they were used for a significant stretch of time.

"On completion of the excavations at Shuafat, it is quite evident that there was a thriving settlement in the Jerusalem area in ancient times," said Ronit Lupo, director of the excavations for the IAA.

"Thousands of years later, the buildings uncovered are of a standard that would not fall short of Jerusalem’s architecture. This discovery represents a highly significant addition to our research of the city and the vicinity."

"Apart from the pottery, the fascinating flint finds attest to the livelihood of the local population in prehistoric times: small sickle blades for harvesting cereal crops, chisels and polished axes for building, borers and awls, and even a bead made of carnelian (a gemstone), indicating that jewelry was either made or imported," she explained.

"The grinding tools, mortars and pestles, like the basalt bowl, attest to technological skills as well as to the kinds of crafts practiced in the local community. We also recovered a few bones of sheep/goat and possibly cattle; these will be analyzed further in the Israel Antiquities Authority laboratories, permitting us to recreate the dietary habits of the people who lived here 7,000 years ago and enhancing our understanding of the settlement’s economy."

Excavation director Ronit Lupo at remains of ancient house Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority 
Basalt bowl
Basalt bowlAssaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Polished flint axe and blades, and a gemstone bead
Polished flint axe and blades, and a gemstone beadAssaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
7,000-year-old bead
7,000-year-old beadRonit Lupo, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority