For many reasons, Israel has been a prime location for incredible archeological sites, including dwellings of other hominids, "biblical" sites, findings from the Hellenistic and Roman conquests, and all the way to Ottoman times. Here we'll post some of the most exciting new discoveries, in reverse historical order, from the closest to our time to the farthest.
* IAA means Israeli Antiques Authority
(Yavne, Central Israel, credit: IAA)
In the town of Yavne, archeologists uncovered the largest Byzantine wine factory. This 220 sqm and 2,400 square feet 1,500-year-old complex were central in the imperial trade, producing wine in huge commercial quantities, around two million liters per year.
It had five wine presses, four large warehouses for storing, aging, and preparing for market. Here was probably produced the much-vaunted "Gaza wine", though experts say that we shouldn't romanticize ancient wine, which was in much poorer quality than what we are used for today.
(2,700-year-old piglet skeleton, Jerusalem. Credit: Oscar Bejerano, courtesy of the IAA*)
Hebrews living in Judea were long considered to have been more pious than their northern Israelite brethren, but a new discovery in the so-called City of David in Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the city's oldest part, raises questions about this assumption. How much did Hebrews living in the holiest of cities actually follow religious rules? This piglet was found in a prominent house, in plain sight, which suggests eating non-kosher wasn't an abominable sin.
(3,100-year-old inscription on pottery vessel, Khirbet ar-Ra’i. Credit: Dafna Gazit, IAA*)
Some 30km southwest of Jerusalem, archeologists found a jug with these letters on it: yod (y), resh (r), bet (b), ayin (aa), and lamed (l), which seem to form the name Yerubba'al. Yerubba'al was one of the judges in the biblical Book of Judges, though it seems the "pottery Yerubba'al" is not the "judge-Yerubba'al". But it does imply that the theophoric Canaanite name was a somewhat common name in 1,100 BCE Judea, even though Ba'al was a Canaanite deity.
(Credit: Tal Rogovski)
Archeologists found several kinds of seals that predate the invention of writing. Older seals were found in Mesopotamia, and researchers believe that is how they got to northern Israel eventually, to what is believed to have been a rich Neolithic village.
Seals were made for commercial and administrative reasons, claiming property in trade or in government operations. Since these seals predate centralized rule, these seem to have been part of relatively far-reaching trade with people outside of your immediate vicinity, in relationships that were not built on ingrained trust and personal emotional investments.
(Flint point from Boker Tachtit, dated to the Early Upper Paleolithic. (Clara Amit, IAA*)
Researchers found two archeological sites about 40 km apart in southern Israel that have been in use for thousands of years, with strong indications for continuous relationships. The interesting point: one site belonged to homo sapiens while the other to Neanderthals, which would make it the earliest known meeting between the two hominid species. They were able to pinpoint a "cultural" exchange by examining the tools found on both sites.
The site that housed modern humans is believed to be the first Sapiens site outside of Africa. As the land bridge between Africa and Asia, Israel is a logical spot for the first breeding between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, which does not seem to have happened in Europe, where most Neanderthals lived. They sadly went extinct in Europe some 30,000 years ago.
(Credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A new species of hominids has been discovered in central Israel. Researchers believe they first wandered around the yet-to-be holy land as early as 400,000 years ago. The remains found are 120,000 to 140,000 years old.
* IAA = Israeli Antiques Authority