16 December 2010

Happy birthday to my darling wife Ricki, to 120, at least.

As many of you probably know, my son, Joel, is studying to be an Israeli tour guide. in conjunction with that, he is blogging the tours he is taking for the course, plus other observations.  You can check out his blog here. His most recent entry is entitled Jerusalem’s Archaeological Surprises and the following is excerpted from it (his address is my address.)

Arnona Hadasha

Saving the best, or at least the least known, for last. This next one is both brand new, and the oldest of them all.

Last Friday, I was sitting in class learning Prehistory from the well known Jerusalem-based archaeologist Dr. Gabi Barkay. He mentioned a recent discovery of Paleolithic, or Stone Age, remains on a Jerusalem street in an area known as Arnona Hadasha, or New Arnona. All of a sudden I blurted out, “That’s my street!”

Paleolithic, Stone Age, flint, Arnona, Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem, Israel, tools

A chip of flint stone. Debris from the creation of Stone Age tools found right on my street.

So I stopped by the dig site today (it is about a 30-second walk from my building) to see what I could learn. As it turns out, they were doing construction there to build a new synagogue and came across the site. They are currently in the middle of a month-long salvage dig that has only about a week left. Then construction will resume. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to photograph inside the site, but the archaeologist on site, a nice guy named Dr. Omri Barzilai, showed me around and explained everything to me.

When they were first doing construction for my building complex, they came across a large number of flint tools, dated to the Middle Paleolithic era (250,000 – 50,000 years B.P., or Before Present). Omri did that excavation as well. There was no real order to anything there. Still, they presumed due to the number that there was a nearby source.

At the current site, I saw a cut in the ground that was approximately 30-50 feet deep. In it, I could clearly see a few layers. The top layer, about 10-15 feet thick was just soil. Beneath it, running along the entire edge of the site, I could easily make out a whitish layer that is the bedrock. Omri pointed out that in one section they found a depression, and between the bedrock and the alluvial soil on top I could easily see a large deposit of flint. The various layers are very easy to make out even to the untrained eye.

archaeology, Paleolithic, stone age, Jerusalem, Israel, Arnona

The Stone Age archaeological dig currently taking place on my block, in Jerusalem

Omri’s theory is that this was a workshop of sorts, a quarry and source of tools for an ancient people. He believes they may be the same (previously discovered) people who occupied some caves about 10 miles to the southeast, near Herodion.

Additionally, since it was clear that the line of bedrock slopes down from here in the direction of my apartment building, he thinks that the tools they found there previously probably simply washed down there over time. Way down at the bottom of the hill I live near the top of is a valley known as Emek Refaim. Previously a number of artifacts from the same era were found there. Omri believes that since there was a wadi (drainage stream) that runs down from my area to Emek Refaim, many of the tools found there may have come from here. Either they may have washed down in rains, or they may have fallen down during tectonic activity (some were too large to have been washed down by rains).


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