En Esur is an astounding feat of urban planning, complete with flood-proof roadways and massive silos for food storage.
For the past two and a half years, archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) have tirelessly worked to uncover the 5,000-year-old city of En Esur.
According to Newsweek, experts believe that the ancient city was about 10 times larger than Jericho, and because of this is being described as the “Early Bronze Age New York.”
En Esur shows remarkable signs of sophisticated urban planning and covers an area of 160 acres. Researchers are confident that the city was once home to an estimated 6,000 people, a substantial increase over the similarly unearthed towns of Megiddo and Jericho in southern Israel.
The foresight of En Esur’s city planners is evidenced by the impressive network of streets, which were covered by plaster and stone to avert flooding, and the use of large silos for long-term food storage.
“Even in our wildest imaginings, we didn’t believe we would find a city from this time in history,” said IAA archaeologist Dina Shalem, according to Bloomberg.
“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.”
“By the end of the fourth millennium B.C.E., the site became a city,” said IAA’s Dr. Dina Yitzhak Paz. “It is one of the earliest cities known in the southern Levant, and it is the largest by far.”
En Esur “is the largest site and the most important from that era” in the region, added Itai Elad, a lead archaeologist on the project.
“This is a huge city — a megalopolis in relation to the Early Bronze Age, where thousands of inhabitants, who made their living from agriculture, lived and traded with different regions and even with different cultures and kingdoms in the area.”
As if the discovery of an entire ancient city wasn’t invigorating enough, archaeologists also uncovered a religious temple they believe is 2,000 years older than En Esur itself.
If the dating is accurate, then the discovery indicates that people purposefully settled and developed near the temple.
“What we are calling a temple is a very unique building, we don’t know of anything like it,” said Shalem.
There are two active springs nearby as well, suggesting that the area was ideal for settlement.
Researchers also found several ancient objects that were likely used for religious purposes. These included charred animal bones, believed to have been used in sacrifices, and large stone basins.
Furthermore, researchers found millions of flint tools and fragments of pottery, animal figurines, a stone replica of a human head, and a seal depicting a man next to an animal.
Some of the tools discovered apparently came from Egypt. The IAA said these finds “allow us to look beyond the material into the spiritual life of the large community that lived at the site.”
Some of the basins weighed up to 15 tons. As such, transporting them to En Esur would’ve required quarrying and carrying them to the city from a site that was miles away. This further reinforces how carefully planned and developed the city really was.
“These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times,” the IAA said.
The large-scale excavation included the help of 5,000 teenagers and volunteers. The site is situated right where Israel’s National Transport Infrastructure Company Ltd. intended to build an interchange, but that project has since been modified to preserve the ancient discovery.
Fortunately, Israel has standardized the practice of excavating areas before hefty construction efforts, so that ancient finds like this don’t get lost for another few millennia.
After learning about archaeologists excavating an “early Bronze Age New York” while preparing to build an interchange road, read about archaeologists finding the remains of America’s first colonists underneath a Florida wine shop. Then, learn about archaeologists uncovering 3,000-year-old Scottish weapons under a soccer field.