Road workers were only trying to widen a highway running through the city of Beit Semesh, Israel, when they stumbled upon the anthropological find of a lifetime. That’s where the archaeologists jumped in. After much digging, they discovered the ruins of a 10,000-year-old house and possible evidence of a “cultic” temple. Amir Golani of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) says, “The large excavation affords us a broad picture of the progression and development of the society in the settlement throughout the ages”. Naturally, buildings thousands of years old have been unearthed before in this area, but the house dug up this week is the very oldest found Judean Shephelah, the west plains of Jerusalem. Near the house were found flint and limestone axes, a sign that it was one of the first forms of permanent housing humanity has developed. The ruins mark the transition from a nomadic hunter/gatherer society to a farming society.
Nearby, a structure is thought to be a cultic temple, more than 6,000 years old. The clue that pointed toward it being such a temple and not just any building was a standing stone, 4 feet tall with 6 smoothed-down sides and pointing, like an arrow, due east. Officials of IAA are very excited about these findings because the artifacts and fossils they have dug up (and will continue to dig up) will illustrate just at which point in history humans began to start forming modern civilization as we know it, growing from simple wandering hunters to traders, farmers, and merchants who can advance society and ideas much more than anyone could before. I wish I could have been there. It’s crazy to think that in America, our cities are only a couple of hundred years old, if that, but in other parts of the world, you can unearth pieces of history that completely change your perspective on not just your town, but all of humanity. It’s a beautiful thing. One day, when I can afford it, I’ll visit the middle east and see places like this, but for now, I guess I can settle for reading stories in the news.