November 10, 2012 - A well dating from 8,500 years ago, with the bones of two prehistoric people inside, was uncovered during recent excavations in the Jezreel Valley, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Thursday.
Archaeologists working on the Neolithic-period site found the skeletal remains of a young woman estimated to be about 19 years of age along with those of an older man at the bottom of the eight-meter deep well. Researchers do not know how the two came to their resting place at the bottom of the pit.
“What is clear is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well it was no longer used for the simple reason that the well water was contaminated and was no longer potable,” said the authority’s excavation director Yotam Tepper. “The impressive well that was revealed was connected to an ancient farming settlement and it seems the inhabitants used it for their subsistence and living.”
In addition to the human remains, numerous artifacts indicating the identity of the people who quarried it — the first farmers of the Jezreel Valley — were recovered from inside the well.
“Wells from this period are unique finds in the archaeology of Israel, and probably also in the prehistoric world in general,” explained Dr. Omri Barzilai, head of the Prehistory Branch of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The two oldest wells ever found are both from Cyprus, Barzilai said, and date back to the beginning of animal domestication, about 1,000 years older than the newly discovered well. Apparently, he said, early herders and farmers developed wells as a way to prevent their livestock from lapping up the precious drinking water.
The well is about 26 feet (8 meters) deep, with a top made of stone and a bottom sunk into the bedrock. At its mouth, the well is about 4 feet (1.3 m) wide.
The two skeletons weren't the only artifacts inside the wall. Archaeologists also found flint blades used for harvesting, stone arrowheads and other tools. Over the centuries, animals' bones and charcoal accumulated in the closed well, remnants that will help researchers date the structure more precisely.