A 2,100-year-old farm "frozen in time" has been found in Israel

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Ricky Joseph

Archaeologists in Israel have unearthed the remains of a 2,100-year-old farmhouse, probably abandoned in haste by the owners, possibly to avoid a military invasion.

"We were lucky to discover a time capsule, frozen in time, in which the remains remained where they were left by the occupants of the site," near the Sea of Galilee in Israel, told archaeologist Amani Abu-Hamid, who is leading the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The excavators discovered ancient storage jars still intact, as well as loom weights on a shelf, suggesting that whoever lived there left the objects behind when they fled.

Several loom weights were found at the site, suggesting that the inhabitants of the farm kept flocks of sheep or goats. Image: Emil Aljem, Israel Antiquities Authority

"It seems they left in haste in the face of imminent danger, possibly the threat of a military attack," Abu-Hamid said.

Archaeologists do not know who lived there, but it is possible that they were individuals from the Seleucid Empire who fled to escape an invasion in the area by the forces of the Asmonean Kingdom - an independent Jewish kingdom based in Jerusalem to the south of the region.

Image: Assaf Peretz, Israel Antiquities Authority

"We know from the historical sources that during this period the Ashmonean Jewish kingdom expanded into Galilee, and it is possible that the farm was abandoned during these events," Abu-Hamid said.

The team also found agricultural tools, such as picks and sickles made of iron, as well as coins that have been dated as belonging to the second half of the second century B.C.E.

Little is known about daily life during the Asmonean period, and almost nothing is known about the people who lived on the farm, according to the IAA statement. But the large quantity of loom weights suggests that weaving was an important task, and that the occupants of the farm possibly kept flocks of sheep or goats.

"Further research is needed to determine the identity of the site's inhabitants," Abu-Hamid said.

Iron tools were found at the site. Image: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

The excavations also unearthed traces of a much earlier settlement at the site, including building foundations and pottery vessels that likely belong to the period between the 19th and 10th centuries B.C.E.

Archaeologists found the ancient farm at a site called Horbat Assad, east of the Sea of Galilee, during investigations prior to a planned $270 million pipeline from the Mediterranean coast. The new pipeline is part of a desalination project that will provide fresh water to agricultural regions of Israel and neighboring countries.

The remains of the Asmonean period farm in Horbat Assad will now be preserved, according to the statement.

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