Jan Bartek – Ancientpages.com – It does not often happen that archaeologists can discover massive ancient structures and huge, intact, vaulted passageways you can just walk through. Once in a while, scientists come across prehistoric buildings and monuments that make them speechless. The recent discovery reported by archaeologists in Israel is quite a mystery.
Aerial view of the stone-covered plaza at Tel Shimron supporting the corridor to the corbelled vault. Credit: Eycon
In northern Israel, archaeologists uncovered a rare structure and exquisitely preserved vaulted passageway from about 3,800 years ago in the Jezreel Valley, also known as the Valley of Megiddo. Scientists have been excavating at Tel Shimron, an ancient city that was first mentioned in Egyptian texts from the early second millennium B.C. and continued to play a role in a variety of later texts, including the Bible and the Mishnah.
An Ancient Massive Monument With An Unknown Purpose
The current excavation is co-directed by Prof. Mario A. S. Martin of the University of Innsbruk and archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority.
The mysterious monument unearthed by archaeologists covers almost the entire top of the hill, but why it was built remains unknown.
“Built with mud bricks using the most advanced architectural technology of the time, the monument raised the hill’s height by an additional five meters (15 feet). The complex extends some 1,200 square meters (13,000 square feet) across the top of the hill, about the size of an Olympic swimming pool,” the Times of Israel reports.
“This is the first time such a mudbrick construction has been found in a passageway in the southern Levant, making it a rare and significant find showing connections across the fertile crescent.
The mud-brick arch found in Tel Shimron. Credit: Ariel David
“A fully preserved mudbrick-built passageway with this type of corbelled vault is without parallel,” said excavation co-director Mario A.S. Martin. “Such structures, made of unfired mudbrick, almost never survive,” told the JNS.
“With walls up to four meters thick, the huge mud-brick construction housed no room or other large space within, but only a single tight passageway only wide enough to let one person through at a time.
Eager to discover what it led to, the archaeologists freed the corridor of thousands of years of sediment that had filled it, and progressively followed the passageway deeper and deeper underground.
After a sharp left turn at the rear of this mysterious building, the corridor broadens to a monumental arch, perfectly preserved after nearly 4,000 years despite being made of fragile sun-dried mudbricks,” the Haaretz reports.
An Extraordinary Archaeological discovery
There is still a lot scientists do not know about Tel Shimron because the site has not been thoroughly excavated before 2017.
“For once, I am speechless,” Dr. Mario Martin of Tel Aviv said. “It’s an extraordinary discovery in an extraordinary state of preservation.”
“This structure was totally intact, and suddenly we realized we were dealing with the foundation of a building or a superstructure that had been constructed at the top of the site,” archaeology Professor Daniel Master, at Wheaton College who has been excavating Tel Shimron since 2017 told the Haaretz.
Mudbrick stairs within the passageway are blocked, including with large stone blocks. Credit: Eyecon
“The recently uncovered complex consists of more than 9,000 unfired mud bricks that were stacked to create a tower and a domed passageway leading down into the city. The two-meter-long passageway is built in a “corbelled” fashion, an architectural technique where layered bricks are progressively stepped inward to create a gradually narrowing roof.
This is the earliest documented example of corbelled architecture in Israel, though the technique was widely used in Mesopotamia during this time period, around 3,800 years ago,” the Haaretz reports.
Intricate ‘Nahariya’ bowl discovered at Tel Shimron. Credit: Ariel David
“Tel Shimron National Park is a time capsule capturing 5,000 years of captivating history in the heart of the Jezreel Valley, renowned as one of the most significant tels in Israel,” Dror Ben Yosef, an archaeologist with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, told the JNS.
The newly uncovered monument has been backfilled for preservation and protection and is not currently accessible to the public.
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Scientists are now facing a number of questions, such as: – Why did the Canaanites of Shimron go to the effort of building a massive structure of 9,000 mud bricks, create a corridor and a beautiful arch supporting it – and then fill up the whole thing with soil?
The purpose of the arch and the massive building that houses it remains a mystery for now.
Written by Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com Staff Writer