Among the finds uncovered in the excavation, conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in a joint operation with Tel Aviv University, are hundreds of flint hand axes used by prehistoric humans.
An astonishing discovery in Jaljulia: a rare and important prehistoric site, roughly half of a million years old, extending over about 1 hectare, was uncovered during the last few months in a joint archaeological excavation conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in cooperation with the Archaeological Department in Tel Aviv University. The archaeological excavation was funded by theIsrael Land Authority, towards the expansion of Jaljulia.
The excavation revealed a rich lithic industry, including hundreds of flint hand axes, typical tools of the ancient Acheulian culture.
According to Maayan Shemer, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Prof. Ran Barkai, head of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University: "The extraordinary quantity of flint tools uncovered in the excavation provides significant information about the lifeways of prehistoric humans during the Lower Paleolithic period. It seems that half a million years ago, the conditions here in Jaljulia were such, that this became a favored locality with extensive human activity. We associate the industry found on site to the Homo Erectus - a direct ancestor of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens, the human species living today. A geological reconstruction of the prehistoric environment, shows that the human activity took place in a dynamic environment, on the banks of an ancient stream (possibly Nahal Qaneh, which now flows approximately 300 yards south of the site). This environment is considered to have been rich with vegetation and herding animals, a 'green spot' in the landscape. In this place, three basic needs of the ancient hunter gatherers were met: clear water, a variety of food sources (plants and animals) and flint nodules, of which tools were made. The fact that the site was occupied repeatedly indicates that prehistoric humans possessed a geographic memory of the place, and could have returned here as a part of a seasonal cycle."
Hand axes, found at the site in relatively large quantities, are very impressive tools, their shape somewhat reminding a teardrop. The production of these tools requires careful and meticulous work, and a deep familiarity of the raw material in use. In Jaljulia hand axes were made of a variety of flint types, and we also observe a differentiation in the production quality. Almost as if some of the hand axes were made by a master craftsmen and others- by someone less qualified.
Hand axes were used as dominant tools by prehistoric humans for more than a million years. Yet, its particular use is still debated. Some scholars suggest that these were the tools used to dismember large animals such as elephants. Others say that hand axes were the "Swiss Army knife" of the Stone Age and had additional uses such as hunting, hide working and the working plant and vegetal material. Large quantities of additional flint artifacts attest to technological innovation, development and creativity.
Maayan Shemer, the excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: "Coming to work in Jaljulia, nobody expected to find evidence of such an ancient site, let alone one so extensive and with such impressive finds. There are only two sites whose estimated age is close to Jaljulia in Central Israel: one in Kibbutz Eyal, approximately 3 miles to the north, and the other, dated to a slightly later cultural phase, at Qesem Cave located approximately 3 miles to the south. The findings are amazing, both in their preservation state and in their implications about our understanding of this ancient material culture. We see here a wide technological variety, and there is no doubt that researching these finds in-depth will contribute greatly to the understanding of the lifestyle and human behavior during the period in which Homo Erectus inhabited our area.
Prof. Ran Barkai, head of the Archaeology Department of Tel Aviv University: "It is hard to believe that between Jaljulia and highway 6, five meters below the surface, an ancient landscape some half of a million years old has been so amazingly preserved. This extraordinary site will enable us to trace the behavior of our direct prehistoric ancestors, and reconstruct their lifestyle and behavior on the very long journey of human existence. The past of all of us, of all human beings, is buried in the earth, and we have a one-time opportunity to travel back half a million years and better get to know the ancient humans who lived here before us, between Jaljulia and road 6."
Photos & Video Credits: Yitzhak Marmelstein, Samuel Magal,
Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority