After a week in which news was constantly being made and I thought I’d croak if I heard one more announcer say “We have breaking news,” I diverted my interest to some news that’s both truly old and really groundbreaking.
The Israeli Antiquities Authority recently announced a surprising discovery. As construction crews prepared to enlarge a junction leading from Israel’s Highway 66 to the farming collective of HaYogev, archaeologists were called in to make sure that nothing of historical significance would be destroyed. This is standard procedure in Israel, where history lurks beneath every rock.
The area, in the western part of the Jezreel Valley and just a few miles north of Megiddo, is fertile flatland that was settled long before biblical times. Archaeologists working at the site uncovered a truly rare find: an 8,500-year-old well from the Neolithic Period (sometimes called the “New Stone Age”).
The well, about four feet in diameter and 25 feet deep, was carved out of limestone bedrock, with a stone lining around the upper part, and two capstones allowing it to be covered.
Keep in mind that this was the Stone Age: the well would have been dug using stone tools, all by hand, in a project led by someone who understood both leadership and hydrology well enough to persuade a whole community that if they spent a very long time chipping through solid rock at that site, they’d eventually reach water.
The well apparently fell out of use after two people fell into it, contaminating the water and leaving the local populace unwilling to drink from it afterward. Skeletons belonging to a young woman and an older man were found in the bottom of the well. How they got there remains a mystery, but that they were part of an early farming community is obvious: several carefully denticulated (with teeth) flint sickle blades used for harvesting grain were also recovered from the well.
The next time I feel impatient about a daunting project (like finishing the next month of Nurturing Faith Bible Studies), I’ll recall how grueling it must have been to dig a well through bedrock with stone tools, and I suspect any grumbling will grind to a halt.