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Atlit-Yam *

Atlit Yam is an ancient submerged Neolithic village off the coast of Atlit, Israel. The site is dated to the final Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site of Atlit Yam dates between 6900 and 6300 BC. Moshe Stekelis Museum of Prehistory exhibition in Haifa Israel The exhibition is based on the excavations and researches of the Haifa University and Antiquities Authority. Photography by Yosef Galili, Ehud Galili, Itamar Greenberg

Atlit-Yam provides the earliest known evidence for an agro-pastoral-marine subsistence system on the Levantine coast. Atlit Yam is an ancient submerged Neolithic village off the coast of Atlit, Israel. The site is dated to the final Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site of Atlit Yam, carbon-dated dates are between 6900 and 6300 BCE. The site lies around 10 m beneath the current sea level and covers an area of 40,000 m².

In the 21st century, it lies between 8-12m (25-40 ft) beneath sea level in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Bay of Atlit, at the mouth of the Oren river on the Carmel coast.

Map of submerged prehistoric sites along the Carmel Coast
Photography by Yosef Galili, Ehud Galili, Itamar Greenberg

History

The site was covered by the eustatic rise of sea levels after the end of the Ice age. It is assumed that the contemporary coast-line was about 1 km (a half-mile) west of the present coast. Piles of fish ready for trade or storage have led scientists to conclude that the village was abandoned suddenly. An Italian study led by Maria Pareschi of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa indicates that a volcanic collapse of the eastern flank of Mount Etna 8,500 years ago would likely have caused a 10-storey (40 m or 130 ft) tsunami to engulf some Mediterranean coastal cities within hours. Some scientists point to the apparent abandonment of Atlit Yam around the same time as further evidence that such a tsunami did indeed occur.

In 1984, marine archaeologist Ehud Galili spotted ancient submerged settlement remains on the Carmel coast whilst surveying the area for shipwrecks. 

Archaeological findings

Stones used as ballast for a fishing net. Photo: Hanay
Alit-Yam – Circular structure built of stones Photo: Hanay
Basalt bowl Photo: Hanay

Rectangular houses

Remains of rectangular houses and hearth-places have been found.

Reconstruction of a dwelling. Photo: Hanay

Wells

A well was found that currently lies 10.5 m (35 ft) below sea-level, constructed of dry-stone walling, with a diameter of 1.5 m (5 ft) and a depth of 5.5 m (20 ft) lower. The fill contained flints, artifacts of ground stone and bone, and animal bones in two separate layers. The upper layer contained partly articulated animal bones, which were presumably thrown in after the well went out of use.

Other round structures at the site may also be wells. Galili believes that the water in the wells gradually became contaminated with seawater, forcing the inhabitants to abandon their homes.

Diver near the well. Photo: Hanay

Megaliths

A stone semicircle, containing seven 600 kg (1,300 lb) megaliths, has been found. The stones have cup marks carved into them and are arranged around a freshwater spring, which suggests that they may have been used for a water ritual.

Reconstruction of the circular megalithic structure Photo: Hanay

Burials

Ten flexed burials have been discovered, both inside the houses and in their vicinity. The skeletons of a woman and child, found in 2008, have revealed the earliest known cases of tuberculosis.

A complete human burial, in an excellent state of preservation, was discovered under 10m of water on October 4 with the skeleton oriented in a fetal position on the right side. Subsequent carbon dating of plant material recovered from the burial placed the age of the site at 8000 +-200 years.

Human skeleton discovered at Atlit Yam
Photo: Hanay

Fish

Bone fish-hooks and piles of fish bones ready for trade or storage point to the importance of marine resources. The men are thought to have dived for seafood, as four skeletons have been found with ear damage, probably caused by diving in cold water. Anthropomorphic stone have been found. The lithics include arrowheads, sickle-blades and axes.

Atlit-Yam – Grey triggerfish fish bones Photo: Hanay

Animals

Animal bones have also been preserved. Animal bones come mainly from wild species.

Goat horns Photo: Hanay

Plants

Plant remains have also been preserved. The plant remains include wild grape, poppy, and caraway seeds. Granary weevils indicate the presence of stored grain. Pollen analysis and the remains of marsh plants indicates the local presence of swamps.

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