Written by By Tali Schechter, CNN
Archaeologists have found the oldest temple in Palestine and the first permanent structure in between 3000 and 4000 years, archaeologists in Israel say.
The discovery of a temple that dates to 4000 B.C. at the site of Susiya, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Ramallah, was made at the end of 2018. Prior to that time, local residents and archeologists knew only of site as an archeological site, spokesman Joe Witfeld told CNN.
The temple, located on a hill, was built of clay that was painted by users and was made mostly of animal bones, Witfeld said.
Located at about 1800 meters (about 5,300 feet) above sea level, the temple is the only one of its kind in the region, said Benjamin Cunio, the excavator of the Temple of Susiya in an earlier interview with CNN.
“A temple for centuries probably ensures that the passage to heaven was uninterrupted and that this symbol of light permeated every corner of life, from animal sacrifices, to worship of prophets, to magical structures to mass ascensions,” Cunio said at the time.
Those who built the temple are likely pre-historic Canaanites, who were possibly descendants of Israelites who left the land during the long era called Canaanite Tribes of Judah, Cunio said.
“They explored many regions in Judea and its western outskirts during this time, and Susiya probably was one of the most important in the northern region of Judea, a region that mainly revolves around Ramallah and Hebron,” Cunio said.
Over the course of its history, Susiya has changed several times, Cunio said, adding that it may have seen different civilizations in different parts of the region during the timeframe the temple is thought to have been built.
The temple was most likely a sacred site for the Canaanites, since the “sacred areas and festivities, such as festivals and sacrifices, were found to depict faces of gods and figures, as well as sacrificial objects depicting animals,” according to an editorial in the Israeli journal Nature.
Excavations have been ongoing at Susiya since 2015 and are expected to continue for years, Witfeld said.
Cunio commented, “In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the temple of Susiya was dedicated to the God of salvation and declared holy.”