7,500-year-old lost Neolithic village discovered off coast of Haifa

Dr Benjamin (left) and the Haifa University team clear away mobile sands covering the excavation site. Photo by J. McCarthy.
Dr Benjamin (left) and the Haifa University team clear away mobile sands covering the excavation site. Photo by J. McCarthy.

Submerged under five meters of water a 7,500 year old neolithic village was discovered on Israel’s Mediterranean coast near Haifa. Researchers expect important insights into the Neolithic society that once lived there. Maritime archaeologist Ehud Galili of the Israel Antiquities Authority led the excavation at Kfar Samir site in collaboration with experts at Flinders University in South Australia and University of Haifa in Israel.

“Water wells are valuable to Neolithic archaeology because once they stopped serving their intended purpose, people used them as big rubbish bins,” Dr Benjamin, a leading expert in prehistoric underwater archaeology, says.

“This is superb for archaeologists because it means we can look through the refuse of prehistoric societies – including animal bones, plant fibres and tools – to see how these ancient civilizations lived, how they hunted and what they ate,” he says.

“At the Kfar Samir site, the water well was probably abandoned when sea levels started to rise and the freshwater became salty so people threw food scraps and animal bones down the well instead.”

“As they were a pre-metal society we expect to find stone tools; perhaps weapons made of flint, and needles made of bone,” Dr Benjamin says.

“We’re also hoping to find organic material such as plant fibers, seeds and evidence of domestic crops such as olive stones that we can date.

“Previous excavations suggest this is likely the world’s oldest olive oil production center and while it’s too early to tell what we’ve sampled from this small excavation, the preliminary results are promising.”

Cutting-edge photogrammetry techniques were used that allowed researchers the creation of a 3D mosaic, but the size of the Neolithic village is still a mystery with further excavations planned.

“We had to take photos in a special way, swimming around the well in a controlled and deliberate manner in order to get full coverage for a high-resolution data set.

“Photogrammetry is not just about creating a pretty picture – for maritime archaeologists it’s a tool that we can use to study the site and make archaeological interpretations. We can spend a few minutes under water, but hours on land analysing the material in very fine detail.

“The technique is not new in theory, but only very recently has the technology caught up to allow us to use it underwater, which we have with exceptional results. This is a wonderful tool for underwater archaeological site recording.”

“We hope Flinders’ Archaeology Department and University of Haifa will work together in the future to unlock the full history of the site – our relationship is great, the research is world-class and the facilities at the University of Haifa are well equipped for this endeavour.”


Flinders University


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