Israeli archaeologists have discovered the remnants of a 2,300-year-old rural settlement near the “Burma Road,” a makeshift pathway to Jerusalem built during the 1947-49 War of Independence.
The Israel Antiquities Authority recently completed excavations at the site ahead of the construction of a 25-kilometer-long natural gas pipeline, which will run from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem. The pipeline will now bypass the archaeological site.
The excavation uncovered 750 square meters of a settlement with stone houses and narrow alleyways that were occupied for an estimated two centuries during the Second Temple period, from 530 B.C.E. to 70 C.E. Each house has several rooms and a courtyard.
The rooms generally served as residential and storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyard, said the dig’s director, Irina Zilberbod.
The settlement was dated with the help of more than 60 coins spanning the period from Seleucid King Antiochus III to Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus.
The dig shows that the site was most developed during the Hellenistic period in the third century B.C.E., following the reign of Alexander the Great. It was abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. Basalt and limestone tools for domestic use were discovered, as were pottery cooking pots, jars and oil lamps.
It’s not clear why the settlement was abandoned, but scholars say it was a gradual process stemming from economic changes rather than a sudden violent event such as a conquest.
“The phenomenon of abandoning villages and farms at the end of the Hasmonean period or at the beginning of the reign of Herod the Great is known based on many rural sites in Judea,” said the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem director, Yuval Baruch.
“It may be connected to Herod’s extensive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the Temple Mount, and the move of many rural inhabitants to the capital to take part in the work.”