Cars drive Sunday on a highway past part of a vast 5,000-year-old cosmopolitan and planned city, one of the first and largest of the ancient Near East, excavated by the Israeli Antiquities Authority in En Esur, Israel. The archaeological site, located near Wadi Ara, was discovered before the construction of a highway interchange and revealed a massive city where 6,000 people lived. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Archaeologists uncovered a 5,000-year-old city and a 7,000-year-old religious temple in northern Israel, officials announced Sunday.
Directors for the Israel Antiquities Authority described the city as "the Early Bronze Age New York" of the region spanning more than 160 acres and accommodating about 6,000 inhabitants.
"There is no doubt that this site dramatically changes what we know about the character of the period and the beginning of urbanization of Israel," Israel Antiquities Authority directors Dr. Ytzhak Paz and Dr. Dina Shalem said in a statement.
During excavations under the city's houses, archaeologists found a religious temple that was 2,000 years older.
The temple was filled with evidence from various religious rituals including a large stone basin used to hold liquids, burnt animal bones suggesting sacrificial offerings and rare figures.
"These surprising findings allow us, for the first time, to define the cultural characteristics of the inhabitants of this area in ancient times," the Israel Antiquities Authority said.
Millions of pottery fragments, flint tools and basalt stone vessels were also uncovered at the site.
The discoveries indicated that two springs originating in the area attracted people to the city where researchers believe people made their living from agriculture and traded with different regions.
About 5,000 teenagers and volunteers also participated in the excavations as part of the Israel Antiquities Authority's Sharing Heritage project for 2 1/2 years in the En Eusr archaeological site near Wadi Ara in the Haifa District.
The site was discovered before the construction of a highway interchange.
"The challenges the archaeological excavation presented the students and the uncovering of its findings, contributed both to their personal development and enriched their acquaintance with the country's landscape, its sites and history," guide Noah Shaul said.