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7,000-Year-Old Olive Pits Suggest Israel’s Prehistoric Farmers May Have Used Sophisticated Irrigation Techniques

TEL AVIV – Seven-thousand-year-old olive pits discovered in northern Israel’s Tel Beit She’an Valley are likely the result of an ancient artificial irrigation technique, archeologists said on Tuesday.

The findings in the area west of the Jordanian border have prompted archeologists from the University of Haifa, who are leading the excavations, to reevaluate prehistoric irrigation techniques, the Jerusalem Post reported.

“The existence of an ancient agricultural system that relies on artificial irrigation will require a significant change in how we perceive their agricultural sophistication,” said Haifa University’s Prof. Daniel Rosenberg, who is heading the research project with Dr. Florian Klimsh of the German Archaeological Institute.

Ancient cities and cultures of the Near East find their roots in prehistoric communities located in the area of the border, the archeologists said. However, even though the region is known as “the cradle of civilization,” precious little is known about it.

Rosenberg said the sheer amount of seeds discovered raises questions not only about irrigation practices but also about trade ties concerning the sale of olives and olive oil.

The archeologists said that, in addition to olives, ancient humans ate wheat, barley, buckwheat, lentils, and peas, and raised herds of goats, sheep, cattle, and pigs, consumed primarily on holidays and festive events.

The archeologists said in their study that examination of botanical evidence, animal bones, and other objects was used to determine the type of economy, diet, and agricultural and social practices of the Jordan Valley communities.

“This provides a rare glimpse into the lifestyles of the ancient inhabitants of the Jordan Valley and the heritage of the region in general, and allows us to not just visit their homes, but also their dishes and pots,” said Rosenberg.

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