Atlit Yam, the ancient underwater site, can be found near Haifa in Israel, not far from the coast of the village of Atlit in the Mediterranean Sea. This prehistoric settlement dates back to the 7th millennium BC (around 9,000 years ago) and is considered to be one of the largest and oldest ever found. The site is so well-preserved that even today, you can see the mysterious stone circle and the human skeletons lying undisturbed in their graves.
Atlit Yam occupies an area of 40,000 square meters and is located 8 to 12 meters below sea level. Marine archaeologist Ehud Galili first discovered it in 1984 and since then, underwater excavations have revealed a wealth of information about the daily life of the ancient inhabitants. Houses, wells, walls, ritual installations, paved areas, a megalithic structure, objects made of stone, bone, wood, and flint, and dozens of human remains have all been discovered at the site. (Source)
One of the fascinating aspects of the settlement is the megaliths located at its center. These seven stones, weighing up to 600 kilograms, are arranged in a semicircle and have cup marks carved into them. It is believed that they may have been used for a water ritual, as they were once arranged around a freshwater spring. Another installation consists of three oval stones with grooves forming schematic anthropomorphic figures, further adding to the mystery of the site and its ancient inhabitants.
Archaeologists and historians have been fond of Atlit Yam for many years. One of the most interesting things about it is the stone-built well dug down 5.5 meters. The well held many secrets and showed what life was like for the people who used to live there.
At the bottom of the well, researchers found an array of artifacts and remains that offered valuable insights into the lifestyle of the prehistoric inhabitants. The well was filled with sediment, containing bones from wild and domesticated animals, flint, stone, wood, and other artifacts.
This suggests that, towards the end of its use, the well was no longer used to provide water; instead, it was used as a disposal pit. The shift in its function was likely due to the water salinization caused by a rise in sea level.
The wells found at Atlit Yam were constructed at the end of the 9th millennium BC. These wells played a crucial role for the area’s residents as they were the water source to maintain a permanent settlement. The villagers dug a 10.5-meter-deep well through layers of clay and soft sandstone, lined it with stone courses, and capped it with a tumulus-like circular construction.
The archaeological material found at the site provides clues into the diet and lifestyle of the prehistoric inhabitants. For instance, the remains of more than 100 species of plants were found, including wild and domesticated animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, and cattle. This suggests that the area’s residents practiced hunting and animal husbandry. Additionally, more than 6,000 fish bones were also discovered, which indicates that fishing played a significant role in their society.
The site at Atlit Yam provides evidence of the earliest known agro-pastoral-marine subsistence system on the Levantine coast. The artifacts and remains found at the site offer a unique glimpse into the daily lives of the people who once lived in the area, making Atlit Yam a valuable place for the study of human history and development. These inhabitants were among the earliest to convert from hunter-gatherers to farmers, and the town is one of the earliest with signs of domesticated cattle.
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The ancient site of Atlit Yam, located on the coast of Israel, holds many secrets yet to be uncovered. Ten buried remains encased in clay and covered by thick layers of sand were discovered both within the houses and in the surrounding area. In total, 65 sets of human remains have been uncovered and analyzed by archaeologists.
One of the most remarkable findings of this site is the presence of tuberculosis (TB) within the village. The skeletons of a woman and child found in 2008 were found to have the earliest known cases of TB in the world. The size of the infant’s bones and the extent of TB damage suggest that the mother passed the disease to her baby shortly after birth. (Source)
The question of how Atlit Yam came to be submerged is one of the greatest mysteries of this site and has sparked much debate among experts. Some scientists point to the apparent abandonment of Atlit Yam around the same time, and the thousands of fish remains as further evidence of a tsunami. An Italian study led by Maria Pareschi of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology suggests that a volcanic collapse of Mount Etna 8,500 years ago caused a 40-meter-high tsunami that could have engulfed several Mediterranean coastal cities within hours.
However, other researchers argue that no solid evidence supports the idea of a tsunami wiping out the settlement. For example, the megalithic stone circle is still untouched in its original position. Another alternative is that the gradual rise in sea levels due to climate change caused glaciers to melt and eventually flood the settlement, leading to its gradual abandonment.
Regardless of the cause of its submerging, the unique conditions of clay and sandy sediment under salty water allowed this ancient village to remain well-preserved over thousands of years. Today, it serves as a window into the past and a source of valuable information for historians and archaeologists.