An 11,000-year-old quarry where prehistoric people sourced the flint for their arrows and spearheads, as well as limestone, was identified between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The works provide evidence that well before prehistoric humans settled down, they were capable of manufacturing on what we can only call an industrial scale.
The find was reported by the Israeli and Middle Eastern media site www.haaretz.com.
The quarry, found on the 300-m high Kaizer Hill on the outskirts of Modiin, is the earliest known Neolithic quarry in the southern Levant, though other prehistoric quarries have been found in the area, including an evidently much older one from the lower-middle Paleolithic period in Sde Ilan.
The marks on Kaizer Hill’s bedrock had been recognized as manmade in the past. The innovation now is reinterpreting “cupmarks” in the bedrock. They were not some remnants or mortars carved into the rock but were caused by the Neolithic men digging out suitable rocks.
The miners were stripping the hill – gradually chipping through and peeling off the softer rock layers to find flint, a very hard rock the prehistoric men used in everything from arrowheads to sickles.
“A systematic survey revealed that large-scale quarrying activities have left damage markings on the bedrock of the hilltop and its slopes,” wrote the team led by Dr. Leore Grosman and Prof. Naama Goren-Inbar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a paper published in PLOS One, who added, “It is evident that the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A inhabitants of the area changed their landscape forever, ‘stripping’ the caliche surface and penetrating it in search of flint bedded in the bedrock.”
Moreover, their searching methods may have been quite sophisticated. The cupmarks were common, but less so were trenching marks, and there were some isolated drilling marks too, report the archaeologists – which they believe attest to a particular strategy to search for flint.
“This strategy seems to have been a combined one, incorporating a search of the top surface of the caliche, drilling into its depth, and then, once the cache of flint was detected, the opening of an extensive quarry front in which quarrying advanced through the full thickness of the caliche,” they wrote.
More proof that the site had been mined are signs of numerous strategies to cut the rock, “including identifying potential flint pockets; creating quarrying fronts on the rocks; removing blocks to allow extraction of flint; creating areas for quarrying dump; and using drilling and chiseling as a primary technique for extracting flint,” Goren-Inbar said.
The result was that the miners altered the landscape dramatically, said Grosman.
That said, the Levantine quarriers didn’t invent the prehistoric wheel. A year ago, University of Cambridge archaeologists had a eureka moment in the middle of the Sahara, realizing that parts of a vast 350-km escarpment were an artifact of a prehistoric industry: ancient hominins creating tremendous amounts of stone tools and piling up discarded ones. The Messak Settafet escarpment was the first known evidence of man changing his environment, albeit probably unwittingly, and on a massive scale.
Source: www.haaretz.com; photo courtesy of The Smithsonian Institution.