BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Pleistocene Paradise

New national park opened to the public in Israel

Aerial view of ‘Ubeidiya National Park. Image courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA

Aerial view of ‘Ubeidiya National Park. Emil Aladjem, IAA

Just a few miles south of the Sea of Galilee in the Jordan Valley, a special ceremony marked the official opening of the new ‘Ubeidiya National Park. In addition to evidence of megafauna such as mammoths, sabretooth tigers, hippopotami, and giraffes, the site has also yielded remains belonging to the species Homo erectus, an early relative of modern humans, as well as a variety of stone tools. ‘Ubeidiya’s Pleistocene remains date back approximately 1.6 million years, making this one of the earliest known sites of its kind ever discovered outside of Africa.

A 1.6 million-year-old hippopotamus tusk discovered at ‘Ubeidiya. Image courtesy Yoli Schwartz, IAA

A 1.6 million-year-old hippopotamus tusk discovered at ‘Ubeidiya. Yoli Schwartz, IAA

A Glimpse into the Distant Past

Located near Kibbutz Bet Zera, the site of ‘Ubeidiya was first identified in 1959 by Izzy Merimsky, an area resident who worked as a nature instructor. Since then, excavations led by professors Moshe Stekelis, Ofer Bar-Yosef, and Eitan Tchernov have revealed the site’s many treasures, including hominin remains, a variety of flint, limestone, and basalt tools, and evidence of a rich wildlife population.

Excavations ended in 1999, but were renewed in 2021 by Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University and Miriam Belmaker of the University of Tulsa. Thanks to their conservation efforts and the development of infrastructure around the site, it was opened to the public, with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority declaring it a national park in 2022. Future plans for the site include converting the original field laboratory into an on-site visitor center.


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According to Barzilai and Belmaker, the geological characteristics of ‘Ubeidiya create a unique opportunity for understanding what life was like between two and one million years ago. The site’s 30 geological layers have been pushed upward at an incline due to tectonic activity, and thus provide a remarkable window through time. Due to ‘Ubeidiya’s exceptional preservation, experts can use it to recreate much of the region’s early ecological conditions.

New signage for visitors to the site. Image courtesy Emil Aladjem, IAA

New signage has been posted for visitors to the site. Emil Aladjem, IAA

Barzilai and Belmaker highlight two key areas of interest for the public at ‘Ubeidiya. First, they note the broad array of species discovered there, most of which are extinct; this faunal record attests both African and European animals living side by side. Second, they point to the remarkable assortment of stone tools, including hand axes, scrapers, and chopping tools, with which the site’s hominin population conducted daily activities such as the processing of animal carcasses and vegetable matter for food.

“The ‘Ubeidiya region is an exciting journey backwards through time,” said Raya Shirkey, Director General of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. “We are happy to present to the public a historical site of such importance that links a beautiful landscape to history.”
 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

1,800-Year-Old Roman Mosaic Revealed at Caesarea National Park


 

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3 Responses

  1. MICHAEL A MILLAGE says:

    The Bible doesn’t tell us about the 4.5 billion year history of earth. It’s nice to see Israel is contributing deails about times past. All Christians should be curious about Israels real history not just the mythology in the O.T.

  2. Matthew says:

    How are you going to be BIBLICAL archaeology and say something dates back a million years? Does anyone fact check or proof check your stuff?

  3. Dennis B. Swaney says:

    Well, they should work with the scientists who are hoping to bring back the mammoth in a few years. Once there are a couple available, they could live in the park. I wouldn’t want to bring back the smilodon, however.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


3 Responses

  1. MICHAEL A MILLAGE says:

    The Bible doesn’t tell us about the 4.5 billion year history of earth. It’s nice to see Israel is contributing deails about times past. All Christians should be curious about Israels real history not just the mythology in the O.T.

  2. Matthew says:

    How are you going to be BIBLICAL archaeology and say something dates back a million years? Does anyone fact check or proof check your stuff?

  3. Dennis B. Swaney says:

    Well, they should work with the scientists who are hoping to bring back the mammoth in a few years. Once there are a couple available, they could live in the park. I wouldn’t want to bring back the smilodon, however.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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