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22 December 2014
Underwater excavation reveals lost Levantine village

A 7,500-year-old water well at a Neolithic site off of Israel's Mediterranean coast near Haifa has been partially excavated. Submerged under five metres of water due to prehistoric sea-level rise, the structure was an important supply of fresh water to the pre-pottery Neolithic people who once lived there.
     Dr Benjamin, a leading expert in prehistoric underwater archaeology and part of the team that excavated and recorded the site, says that "Water wells are valuable to Neolithic archaeology because once they stopped serving their intended purpose, people used them as big rubbish bins. At the Kfar Samir site under investigation, the water well was probably abandoned when sea levels started to rise and the freshwater became salty.
     After shifting several tonnes of sand, the team took core samples that are currently being analysed for pollen and sediments. It is hoped the results will shed light on the early Mediterranean diet and trade of the village. The team are also hoping to find organic material which can be dated. Dr Benjamin says that previous excavations suggest this is likely the world's oldest olive oil production centre.
     Along with fellow collaborator and world-leading expert John McCarthy of Wessex Archaeology, Dr Benjamin is also in the process of generating a 3D model of the well using a technique only very recently possible underwater, allowing them to analyse the material in very fine detail.
     As part of the two-week expedition, researchers also conducted field excursions to identify prehistoric sea-level markers. Dr Benjamin says there are markers from 125,000 years ago on land, as well as areas offshore with prehistoric coastal villages up to 12 metres under water, with possibly more and older material even deeper.

Edited from Flinders News (9 December 2014)

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