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27 April 2014
Excavations explore 6,000-year-old settlement in Israel

The Ein el-Jarba site, in the Jezreel valley of what is now northern Israel, has been yielding finds that are beginning to tell a story of a people who lived there more than 6,000 years ago, before the pyramids arose in Egypt and before the ancient Canaanites dominated the region.
     Archaeologist Katharina Streit, a doctoral student with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been leading a team through full-scale excavations at the Early Copper Age settlement. "Little is known about this long period, which stretches over most of the 6th millennium BCE," says Streit.
     Systematic digging turned up an intact Early Bronze Age floor, house architecture remains, a possible silo and complete ceramic vessels - and most importantly, an Early Chalcolithic level "yielding a rich assemblage of finds and several floor levels".
     Among the many finds were retouched flint tools, sling stones, incised pottery, and numerous blades and fragments of obsidian. "There are no obsidian sources in Israel or in the surrounding areas," Streit reveals. "The closest potential sources are in Anatolia."
     The richest yield consisted of numerous sherds of what is designated as 'Wadi Rabah' pottery, a descriptor for artifacts uncovered in the 1960s at the proto-historic site on the southern bank of a tributary of the Yarkon River in central Israel. Generally dated to the 5th millennium BCE, it is described as a material culture between the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age of the Middle East. "The Wadi Rabah period remains ill-defined," says Streit.
     While the small finds for the Early Chalcolithic are significant, very little in the way of domestic structures for this period have yet been found at the site. Of particular interest would be the presence of courtyard houses, considered to be the dominant type of dwellings in the prehistoric southern Levant. However "no courtyard house has been found dating to the Early Chalcolithic period so far," says Streit. "In fact, no complete houseplan is known from the Early Chalcolithic period so far, and consequently little is known about domestic life. This project will provide the chronological frame necessary for future research."
     Streit and her teams will return in summer to continue excavations.

Edited from Popular Archaeology (28 March 2014)

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