A Newly Discovered Ancient Gate Means Urbanization Started Earlier Than We Thought

old town, the tower of david or citadel of jerusalem and the walls
5,500-Year-Old Gate the Oldest Found in IsraelAtlantide Phototravel - Getty Images
  • Archeologists discovered a 5,500-year-old city gate in Israel’s Tell Erani site, the oldest ever found in the country by about 300 years.

  • The gate was found near an industrial zone when crews were attempting to lay a new water pipe.

  • The discovery suggests an earlier start to urbanization in Israel than originally estimated.

A 5,500-year-old gate discovered at the Tel Erani site in Israel is more than just an ancient city gate. It also stands for the possible launch of urbanization throughout all of Israel.

The find is now considered the oldest known gate in the country, pre-dating the gate at Tel Arad by about 300 years.

“This is the first time that such a large gate dating to the Early Bronze IB has been uncovered,” Emily Bischoff, director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, says in a statement. “To construct the gate and the fortification walls, stones had to be brought from a distance, mudbricks had to be manufactured, and the fortification walls had to be constructed. This was not achieved by one or a few individuals. The fortification system is evidence of social organization that represents the beginning of urbanization.”

Located near the Kiryat Gat Industrial Zone, the Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an excavation at the behest of the national water company of Israel, Mekorot, prior to the laying of a new water pipe to an Intel factory. During excavation, crews also found part of a fortification system of the ancient city, dating to about 3,300 years ago, and the much older Tel Erani gate, a roughly 5-foot-tall passageway of large stones over a roadway that led into the ancient city. The find features two towers made of large stones flanking the gate, rows of mudbricks and comes attached to the city walls that were uncovered in previous excavations.

Martin-David Pasternak, Israel Antiquities Authority researcher, says in a statement that passers-by, traders, and even enemies who desired to enter the city had to first pass through the gate. “The gate not only defended the settlement, but also conveyed the message that one was entering an important strong settlement that was well-organized politically, socially, and economically,” he says. “This was the message to outsiders, possibly also to Egypt.”

Pasternak believes that the age of the gate shows it was reused multiple times as new settlements were formed.

Following the discovery and exploration, the ancient gate was covered back up to stave off erosion and the water pipe now has a new route. The excavation also unearthed a complete alabaster jar and red-colored bowls.

Tel Erani, believed to be an important early urban center in the area during the Early Bronze period, was part of a larger settlement system. “Within this system we can identify the first signs of the urbanization process, including settlement planning, social stratification, and public building,” Yitzhak Pak, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist, says in a statement. “The newly uncovered gate is an important discovery that affects the dating of the beginning of the urbanization process in the country.”

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