It took archaeologists over two years to completely uncover the ancient city in Israel, thought to have once been home to around 6,000 people. The city itself is 5,000 years old, predating many significant historical events and offering scientists a glimpse of a period in human history that is otherwise seldom explored.
The city, En Esur, was located in what is now Israel’s Haifa District, and it thought to be as much as ten times the size of the city of Jericho, as well as a 7,000-year-old temple in Northern Israel.
A professional team of archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) led the excavation, with a handful of volunteers helping to dig up the ancient city.
Officials from the IAA described the site as the region’s “Early Bronze Age New York”.
The city spanned over 160 acres and while larger settlements in contemporary Mesopotamia and Egypt put EN Esur to shame, the recent discovery dwarfs the more well-known cities of Megiddo and Jericho in southern Israel, according to Haaretz.
Archaeologists discovered an ancient mega city in Israel
The site was huge spanning 160 acres
The size of the site is not only what has impressed archaeologists – intricate designs and layouts tell of an advanced population that may well have been further on down the line of modernity than what was once thought.
Spaces for large silos designed for efficient food storage and roads and networks of streets of complex planning were unearthed, all covered with plaster and stones to ensure flooding was prevented.
Dr Dina Shalem and Dr Yitzhak Paz, directors at IAA said in a statement: “There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization of Israel.”
Dr Paz told Haaretz: “By the end of the fourth millennium B.C.E., the site became a city. It is one of the earliest cities known in the southern Levant, and it is the largest by far.”
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Millions of fragments of pottery was found strewn around the site
During the excavations, archaeologists also found a religious temple that is thought to predate the city by more than 2,000 years.
The ruins of ancient houses uncovered objects that would have been used in several religious rituals.
Some of the items found included charred animal bones, thought to be used in sacrifices, and a large stone basin that was used to hold liquids.
The stone basins found in the site were reported to weigh between 10 and 15 tons and would have had to be carried from a site miles away.
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It took over two years to full uncover the site
The dig has uncovered reams of information about an historic people
This find in particular furthered archaeologists’ admiration of the previous inhabitants, as well as reinforcing the fact that little is known about these peoples.
Other man-made objects included millions of pottery fragments and flint tools that would have worked towards the city’s development and social advances.
The IAA said: “These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times.”
En Esur is located roughly half-way between Tel Aviv and Haidfa, and had already been the subject of small-scale digs in the past.
Many existing ancient Egyptian sites trump En Esur
The promising finds were then furthered when the ISS decided on undertaking a mass excavation of the site in 2017.
Yet despite the uncovering, archaeologists estimate they have excavated less than 10 percent of the ancient city.
The archaeologists also found a two-metre thick fortification wall studded with towers and a cemetery composed of burial caves.
Plans to build a road over the site are set to go ahead
Itai Elad, an IAA archaeologist, told Hareetz: “You really have the complete package of early urbanized settlements, with all the components: streets, burial caves, domestic structures, walls, public buildings.”
All of this, say, archaeologists, points towards instances of organised religion predating several prominent modern-day faiths like Christianity and Islam.
Despite the significance of the finds, the site is still planned to disappear under a new road junction aimed at better connecting the regions neighbouring towns, much to the dismay of scientists and history enthusiasts alike.