While there have been archaeological digs since the 1960s at the site of the ancient settlement of En Esur—located in the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv—a major excavation begun two years ago has revealed a city far larger than expected. Archaeologists say that in the 4th millennium BCE the city covered an area of some 160 acres and had a population of about 6,000, making it much greater in size than Jericho or Megiddo, heretofore thought the biggest cities in the southern Levant at the time. Yasemin Saplakoglu reports. (Photographs and video can be found at the link below.)
The city’s intricate design of residential and public areas and alleys points to the organized society and social hierarchy that may have existed at the time, according to the statement [from the Israel Antiquities Authority]. The archaeologists also uncovered millions of pottery fragments, flint tools, basalt-stone vessels, and a large temple filled with burnt animal bones and figurines—such as one of a human head containing a seal impression of human hands lifted into the air. In the temple’s courtyard, archaeologists found a huge stone basin that held liquids, most likely for religious rituals.
“This is a huge city—a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area,” Itai Elad, Yitzḥak Paz, and Dina Shalem, the directors of the excavation, said.
Below some of the houses, the archaeologists also uncovered evidence of an even older city that dates back some 7,000 years to the Chalcolithic period.