JERUSALEM -- A new course is being plotted for a lengthy natural gas line here after archaeologists unearthed a 2,300-year old village.
The remnants of the rural settlement were found near "Burma Road," which leads to the city, and are believed to have been lived in during the Second Temple period, said Israel Antiquities Authority excavation director Irina Zilberbod. Thedig revealed about 8,000 square feet (750 square meters) of a settlement with stone houses and a series of narrow alleyways that were occupied for an estimated two centuries from 530 BCE and 70 CE.
Each stone building housed a single family and consisted of several rooms and an open courtyard, Zilberbod said.
"The rooms generally served as residential storage rooms, while domestic tasks were carried out in the courtyard," she said.
The site is located about 900 feet (280 meters) above sea level with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. The land was most likely used in similar ways as it is today — to cultivate orchards and vineyards, the main economic mainstay of the region's early settlers.
Under Israeli law, pre-construction excavation must be carried out to ensure that priceless antiquities are preserved.
The excavations were done ahead of the construction of a 15.5 mile- (25 kilometer) long natural gas pipeline, which will run from the coast to the outskirts of Jerusalem. It will now travel alongside the archaeological site to protect it.
Archaeologists believe the village reached its height of development in the Hellenistic period, during the third century BCE, when Judea was ruled by the Seleucid monarchy following Alexander the Great. The settlement was then abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty.
Jerusalem archaeologist Yuval Baruch said it was unclear why the village was abandoned, but believed it could have been related to economic problems.
"The phenomenon of villages and farms being abandoned at the end of the Hasmonean dynasty, or the beginning of Herod the Great's succeeding rule is one that we are familiar with from many rural sites in Judea, and it may be related to Herod's massive building projects in Jerusalem, particularly the construction of the Temple Mount and the mass migration of villagers to the capital to work on these projects," he said.
The unearthing of the village also turned up domestic basalt and limestone grinding and milling tools, pottery cooking pots, jars for storing liquids, pottery oil lamps and more than 60 coins including ones from the reigns of the Seleucid King Antiochus III and the Hasmonean King Alexander Janneaus.
The Second Temple, sacred to Jewish people, was located on the site of the current day Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem where the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock now stand.