A large Neolithic community that dates back 9,000 years has been discovered by archaeologists beside two streams in Motza, which can be found sitting in a comfortable spot beneath the Jerusalem hills. The remains of skeletons, stone houses, and magnificent temples were all discovered during the planning stages of the construction of a new road.
As Haaretz report, the Neolithic village was found to measure 500 meters and is believed to have sustained a prosperous community of around 1,000 people. Interestingly, after being inhabited for around 400 years, the village was abandoned for a reason that is not yet understood, only to rise again 5,000 years later during the heyday of the Roman Empire.
The Jerusalem Valley community was constructed by using tools made out of flint, with buildings fashioned out of stone bricks and mud. The villagers who resided here would have been one of the earliest groups of humans who chose to live in a settled community, eschewing their previous hunting and gathering lifestyle
This 9,000-year-old Motza village is just one of the early communities that were once scattered at the basin of the Jerusalem hills, according to Hamoudi Khalaily from the Antiquities Authority, who explained that “Neolithic settlements were flourishing at the time.”
In fact, the prosperous community was doing so well with their farming endeavors that they were able to construct large public buildings and dye the plaster of their buildings red, indicating that they must have had a substantial amount of leisure time.
After examining tools that were found in the community, archaeologists spotted some major differences between ones that were commonly used inside homes and ones which were recovered from public spaces.
Previous excavations have shown that the Motza valley has served as a home for people since the very start of humanity, and Khalaily surmised that during its existence, this 9,000-year-old community was probably the largest of its kind in the region.
In terms of sustenance, the Neolithic people who would have lived here survived on a diet of badgers, hares, gazelle, and boar, while also consuming pigs, goats, cows, and sheep. While some of these animals may very well have been domesticated at the time, including pigs, others were certainly not. For instance, the domestication of sheep first took place in Anatolia and would have occurred around 10,000 years ago, so it is highly probable that sheep were still wild in the Jerusalem Valley during this time.
Other food that these villagers would have relied upon would have included fava beans, lentils, barley and wheat, and archaeologists discovered evidence showing that these had been successfully farmed and domesticated by the community, rather than gathered out in the wild.
As Khalaily explained, the attitude toward life and death also shifted markedly once humans settled down and began living in communities like these, and the skeletal remains of 10 individuals that were curled up in the fetal position were found beneath the floors of some of the homes in this Neolithic village, with many of them being children.
“During the transitional time between hunting and gathering to settlement, the attitude towards children, in life and death, changed. If a baby died, they didn’t consider it important or bury it. But after people settled, they began burying the babies.”
Now that this 9,000-year-old village near the Jerusalem hills is undergoing excavation, archaeologists hope to learn more about why it was suddenly abandoned 8,700 years ago, only to spring up again in 200 BCE.