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In Kiryat Gat, the oldest gate in Israel was discovered

In an excavation by the Antiquities Authority prior to the construction of a Mekorot company water line in the Kiryat Gat area, an ancient gate was discovered, approximately 5,500 years old * This gate was part of the fortification system of one of the most important mounds for understanding the beginning of urbanization

The gate looking at. Photo by Emil Algam, Antiquities Authority.
The gate looking at. Photo by Emil Algam, Antiquities Authority.

An ancient gate - the oldest known in the Land of Israel, was recently discovered in Tel Arani, near the Kiryat Gat industrial area. For the past month, the Antiquities Authority has been conducting an archaeological dig funded by the Mekorot company, before laying a water line. The site reveals a gate and part of the fortification system of an ancient city, dating to the Early Bronze Age 1B - about 3,300 years BC. These buildings symbolize the beginning of urbanization in Israel in particular, and in the southern Levant in general.

The gate which is considered to be the oldest in Israel so far is found in Tel Arad. This mound is about 300 years later than the gate that has just been discovered.
The gate, which has been preserved to a height of about 1.5 m, consists of a "corridor" of large stones, which led into the ancient city. Two towers were erected on both sides of the gate, which were also made of large stones, with rows of mud bricks between them. This gate is connected to the city wall that was discovered in previous excavations.

Tools found in their entirety on the site. Photo by Emil Algam, Antiquities Authority
Tools found in their entirety on the site. Photo by Emil Algam, Antiquities Authority

Mekorot company said that the archaeological excavations were done as part of the construction of a new water line that will increase the water supply to Kiryat Gat in general, and in particular to the Intel factory, one of the most prominent chip manufacturers in the world, which is a major and prominent consumer of water. The new line will connect the Pelugut Junction area to the east of Kiryat Gat. The length of the line is about 11 km, with diameters of between 48 and 60 inches and a cost of about NIS 90 million. During test drilling, evidence of archeological finds was discovered, and as a result, the Antiquities Authority set out for archeological salvage excavations.

According to Emily Bischoff, director of the dig On behalf of the Antiquities Authority: "This is the first time that a gate of such dimensions has been discovered from the Early Bronze Age 1b. In order to build the gate and the walls, stones had to be brought from far away, bricks made and the fortification system built. This is not a one or two person project. The fortification system testifies to social organization, which symbolizes the beginning of urbanism."

"It is likely that any passerby, merchant, or enemy who wanted to enter Tel Arani, had to pass through this impressive gate," says Martin-David Pasternak, period researcher at the Antiquities Authority. "The gate not only protected the settlement in practice, but conveyed the impression that you are entering a place of great power, which is organized politically, socially, and economically. It was a message to the outside - perhaps also to Egypt, which at that time began the process, which at the end of it united into a great empire under King Narmer." Pasternak adds, that "in the later phase of the Early Bronze Age, the Egyptians themselves arrived and settled in the mound, and they also used the gate."

According to Dr. Yitzhak Paz, an archaeologist specializing in the period on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, "Tel Erani, which is about 150 dunams, is a significant early urban center that operated here in the region, during the Early Bronze Age. The mound is part of a large and significant settlement system that was established in the southwest of the Land of Israel at that time. In this array, it is possible to identify the first signs of urbanization processes, such as settlement planning, social stratification and public construction. This is a significant discovery, which changes the dating of the beginning of urbanization in Israel. Extensive excavations conducted by the Antiquities Authority in recent years have dated the beginning of urbanization in Israel to the end of the fourth millennium BCE, however the Tel Erani excavations indicate that this process began even earlier - in the last third of the fourth millennium BCE."

Many archaeological excavations have been conducted at Tel Arani since the mid-50s. These excavations were managed by the Antiquities Division, the Antiquities Network, Ben Gurion University and the University of Krakow. The extensive studies that have been carried out and are being carried out at Tel prove its importance in questions related to the beginning of the urbanization - when did the urbanization begin, what is a city, what are its characteristics and whether or not there was an Egyptian occupation.
According to Eli Escozido, director of the Antiquities Authority, "The discovery of the earliest gate known in Israel adds an important piece of information to the research. In cooperation with the Mekorot company, it was decided to copy the water line, so that the ancient gate will be preserved."

The Mekorot company stated that the line will enter execution work as early as 2023 and will continue throughout 2024. Mekorot stated that the positive cooperation with the Antiquities Authority will also continue at other sites in Israel.

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