by Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff
In project with local youth in southern Israel, archaeologists uncover ancient underground network of homes and storage spaces linked by tunnels • Meanwhile, rare frescoes of animals, plants and people found at site in northern Israel.
|The archeological site in southern Israel
|Photo credit: Dudu Grunshpan
The recently uncovered a cluster of underground structures dating back about 6,000 years beneath the Shoket junction in southern Israel during a joint excavation project with local youth.
The Israel Antiquities Authority is set to complete its dig near the roadway ahead of plans to build a new junction on the site as part of the Trans-Israel Highway project.
During the dig, archaeologists found ancient homes built along the Hebron Stream, surrounded by a vast network of underground spaces dug into the soil. Some of the spaces are lined with large stones and others are connected by underground tunnels.
The IAA said the underground cavities, which maintain relatively cool temperatures despite the hot climate in the Negev Desert, were used for storage and production during the Chalcolithic period. The spaces may have also been used as living quarters.
Hundreds of clay vessels found at the site provide evidence of the extensive human activity that took place inside the underground spaces. Among the clay artifacts found were storage jars, churns, decorated tableware, spindles and loom weights for creating textiles. Stone tools for grinding grains were also found, along with sickles, axes, knives and grain seeds.
The excavation was led by Dr. Ron Beeri, Vladik Lifshitz, Alex Fraiberg, Moran Belila and Ilanit Azoulay, who worked together with more than 100 youths from southern Israel as part of an IAA project to bring young people closer to their cultural heritage and encourage them to take proper care of Israel's antiquities. Young people from Beersheba, Lehavim, Meitar and Arad, among other places, participated in the dig.
Beeri said of the finds: "During this period, we see the early use of irrigation ditches to direct water from the rivers to the fields. The towns, which sit along the Hebron Stream and the Beersheba River, [were built] directly on the banks of the river at an incredible density. In the excavation, we found a large amount of grain seeds, and my guess is that the residents took advantage of the river floods to divert water for irrigation."
Meanwhile, at Zippori National Park in northern Israel, rare fresco fragments from the Roman period were found during a Hebrew University of Jerusalem excavation. Among the fragments were paintings of people, plants and geometric motifs.
The dig was carried out in memory of Ursula Johanna and Fritz Werner Blumenthal of Perth, Australia, and led by Prof. Zeev Weiss of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology. The findings shed new light on the village of Zippori, which was an important Jewish center in the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods.
The frescoes found once decorated a building constructed in the early second century C.E. The building's purpose is still unknown. It was destroyed during the third century, also for an unknown reason, and another building was erected in its place. Building materials, including stones and pieces of plaster, were buried under the floor of the new Roman building. The designs on the pieces of plaster are colorful and varied, some of them including pictures of plants, people, a lion, a bird, a tiger and other figures.
The vast construction in Zippori after the Great Revolt indicates the switch in the local Jewish attitude toward Roman culture. Zippori reached the status of a Roman "polis" (city-state) due to its loyalty to Rome during the revolt.
Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff
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