As Jews around the world celebrate the Maccabee victory over the Hellenists this Hanukkah, archaeologists have announced their discovery of an agricultural farm in Jerusalem's Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood that dates from the period of the Hasmonean dynasty founded by the Maccabees.
The farm was discovered on Hantke Street, during construction work for a light rail line in the area.
The findings indicate two distinct stages of use, one from the Hellenistic period, between 400 B.C.E. and 200 B.C.E., and one from the Roman period, between the middle of the second century B.C.E. and the middle of the first century B.C.E., which corresponds to the time of Hasmonean rule.
There are indications that with more excavation, the farm could turn out to be part of a town, said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Daniel Ein Mor, who is leading the Hantke Street dig.
"We discovered rock foundations in the buildings, pointing to a huge investment," he said. "The quality of the construction is excellent, so I wouldn't be surprised if future findings reveal it is even something bigger, maybe a settlement."
So far archaeologists have uncovered a wine press, outdoor stoves, canals and a large amount of earthenware, including a small perfume bottle, in the area. They also found a small lead weight with a carved letter, possibly the Hebrew letter "yod," which in this case was written upside down.
Ein Mor said he thinks the inhabitants cultivated the land near the Ein Karem Stream, where ancient terraced fields have been discovered.
Archaeologists know little about this area, which lay west of Jerusalem during the Roman and Hellenistic periods.
They do know that there was a large village at Ein Karem in ancient times, and have also found remains of early settlements near the areas where the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and Shaare Zedek Medical Center are located today.