7,500-year-old underwater village may have been oldest olive oil production center in the world

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An underwater excavation site off of Haifa, Israel, has revealed a 7,500-year-old water well and Neolithic village. The finds are from a pre-metal and pre-pottery settlement that lived on the Kfar Samir site. This lost Levantine village is now 5 meters (16 feet) underwater due to prehistoric sea-level rise, drowning out what may have been the oldest olive oil production center of the world.

The research team from Flinders University in Australia, Israel’s University of Haifa and the Israel Antiquities Authority, has been excavating the submerged structures in the area and using leading-edge photogrammetry, in the hopes of gleaning insights into the ancient society that once thrived there; what they ate, how they hunted, and who they traded with.

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Dr. Benjamin (left) and the Haifa University team clear away sands at the excavation site. Credit: J. McCarthy.

The well is thought to have supplied fresh water to the village. According to Flinders University maritime archaeologist Jonathan Benjamin, “Water wells are valuable to Neolithic archaeology because once they stopped serving their intended purpose, people used them as big rubbish bins.” Once sea levels began to rise the fresh well water became salty, and the villagers used it instead for their refuse, throwing in animal bones and food scraps.

“This is superb for archaeologists because it means we can look through the refuse of prehistoric societies – including animal bones, plant fibers and tools – to see how these ancient civilizations lived, how they hunted and what they ate,” Benjamin says.

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