Archaeologists in Israel have revealed the remnants of an “enormous” 5,000-year-old city, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced, offering new details on a period when the region’s rural population began developing larger urban centers.
Located halfway between the present-day cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, the 160-acre site at En Esur was unveiled during roadworks on a new interchange to the town of Harish.
The ancient city, described by experts as the New York of antiquity may have been called home by more than 6,000 people, around 5,000 years ago.
Although smaller than contemporaneous cities built Mesopotamia and Egypt, En Esur would have most likely dwarfed the more famous cities of Megiddo and Jericho in southern Israel, according to Haaretz.
“This is a huge city, a megalopolis for the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made a living from farming, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area … It is New York of the early Bronze Age in our region; a cosmopolitan and planned city,” excavation directors Itai Elad, Yitzhak Paz and Dina Shalem said in a statement released on Facebook by the IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority).
אנחנו מזמינים אתכם בחוה"מ סוכות לחפור ולגלות יחד איתנו את העיר הקדומה והגדולה ביותר בישראל מלפני 5000 שנה, באתר…
“There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization of Israel,” said Israel Antiquities Authority directors and Dr. Dina Shalem Dr. Yitzhak Paz in a statement.
“By the end of the fourth millennium B.C., the site became a city. It is one of the earliest cities known in the southern Levant, and it is the largest by far,” Paz told Haaretz.
Archaeological excavations have revealed that the ancient city developed near two water springs, in a land that is fertile for agriculture and is close to important central trade routes. The ancient settlement contained numerous well-planned buildings as well as public and private areas, streets and alleys and was surrounded by a fortification wall.
The excavation revealed two main settlements, Shalem explained in an IAA video.
The first is about 7,000 years old. It is a very large agricultural settlement. Two thousand years later, another settlement became one of the first known cities in this area of the world.
These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times, according to the IAA statement. It was during this time that the populations of Canaan moved from rural to mostly urban environments, the archaeologists explain.
According to archaeologists, along with the most sophisticated construction and city planning, there also had to be complex governance on the site.