Remains of a village that is 2,300 years old have been uncovered near the "Burma Road", on the main route to Jerusalem.
The remnants of the rural town, which was lived in for approximately two centuries during the Second Temple era were first discovered in June 2013, when Israel Natural Gas Lines (INGL) began construction on a gas line running from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem. For the past six months the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has conducted an archaeological salvage excavation at the site.
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The excavations, which cover about 750 square meters, revealed a small rural town with a few stone houses and a network of narrow alleys. Each building, which probably housed a single nuclear family, consisted of several rooms and an open courtyard.
"The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyards," says excavation director Irina Zilberbod.
The town, whose name is unknown, is nestled at the top of a hill 280 meters above sea level, with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. These large tracts of land were used to cultivate orchards and vineyards, which were the economic mainstay of the region’s early inhabitants.
The excavations have shown that the site reached the height of its development in the Hellenistic period, during the third century BCE, when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid Empire. It was abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty, at around 150 BCE.
It is not known why the site was abandoned, but it is probably related to economic problems and not a violent incident.
"The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty or the beginning of Herod the Great's succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea," says Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Yuval Baruch. "It may be related to Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount, and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects."
The excavations yielded numerous and varied archeological findings, including basalt and limestone grinding and milling tools for domestic use, pottery cooking pots, jars for storing oil and wine, pottery oil lamps for domestic use, and more than 60 coins, including some from the reigns of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus.
In light of the finds, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the INGL have agreed that engineering plans for the gas line are to be revised, bypassing the site and preserving it as an accessible archaeological site for the public.