Israel Antiquities Authority excavations in the Jezreel Valley uncovered one of the world’s earliest known wells at ‘Enot Nisanit.’ The Neolithic well was impressively quarried with stone tools and its presence reveals that the nearby farming communities possessed a clear understanding of local hydrology and geology. While the excavations have uncovered many diagnostic artifacts that teach about the local population—sickle blades, arrowheads, animal bones and charcoal—the archaeologists were surprised to come across two 8,500-year-old skeletons in the well.
The contemporaneous population consisted of some of the first farmers in the Jezreel Valley, and the male and female skeletons found in the well were presumable part of that community. The archaeologists were unable to determine whether the presence of the bodies signaled a murder or an accident; what is certain is that their bacteria fouled the waters and ended the well’s function as a potable water source.
The discovery of this early well is archaeologically significant beyond the human remains and the site will be preserved as an icon of early water engineering in Israel. The world’s oldest wells were discovered in Cyprus and reveal the first efforts to create a protected water source free from pollution by animals. The recent discovery is one of the two oldest known wells in Israel and helps provide a picture of material engagement in a period predating pottery and metallurgy.
Additional content for BAS Library Members: Read Amiran, Ruth, Goethert, Rolf, Ilan, Ornit. “The Well at Arad.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Mar/Apr 1987.