A report from the IAA describes a range of finds at a salvage dig being conducted on Highway 38 (aka “the Diagonal Route”) north of Beth Shemesh. The finds include a house from the Neolithic period with nine flint and limestone axes, some used for cultic purposes. Archaeologists also identified a Chalcolithic temple at the site.
In the archaeological excavation conducted at Eshta’ol an important and rare find from the end of the Chalcolithic period (second half of the fifth millennium BCE) was discovered in the adjacent area. During the course of the excavation six thousand year old buildings were exposed and a stone column (called a standing stone or mazzevā) was discovered alongside one of them. The standing stone is 1.30 meters high and weighs several hundred kilos. According to the excavation directors, “The standing stone was smoothed and worked on all six of its sides, and was erected with one of its sides facing east. This unique find alludes to the presence of a cultic temple at the site”. The archaeologists said, “In the past numerous manifestations have been found of the cultic practice that existed in the Chalcolithic period; however, from the research we know of only a few temples at ‘En Gedi and at Teleilat Ghassul in Transjordan.”
The site will be open to the public on Wednesday, November 27, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The article does not state whether the site will be preserved, but given its location along the route of the highway expansion, it seems unlikely. The full story is here and high-resolution photos are available here. The story is also reported in Arutz-7 and The Times of Israel, both of which provide details for registering for the site visit.
Eshtaol is mentioned in the Bible in connection with the birth and burial of Samson (Judges 13:25; 16:31). Men from the tribe of Dan were sent from Eshtaol and Zorah to spy out the northern territory for settlement (Judges 18:2, 8, 11). The discoveries made are from earlier periods and are not at the ancient site of Eshtaol. For a brief discussion of the location of ancient Eshtaol, see our post here.
Photo by Yoli Shwarz, courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority