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Strata: Canaanites in Suburbia, Bonnie Rochman, BAR 24:03, May-Jun 1998.

Vast Graveyard Emerges Near Tel Aviv

Ancient Canaanite cemetery south of Tel AvivArchaeologists have discovered an ancient Canaanite cemetery south of Tel Aviv but have yet to find the city in which the buried Canaanites lived.

At least a thousand Middle Bronze Age II (c. 2000–1750 B.C.) skeletons have been uncovered in sand dunes bordering the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon L’tzion. Particularly poignant was the discovery of a woman still holding a child. According to Yossi Levi, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologist who led the excavation, this is not unusual. “There were a lot of family burials of children with parents, but we can’t be sure that the children and adults were related because we haven’t done expensive DNA testing,” said Levi.

In addition to the human remains, the excavators recovered pottery, jewelry, and weapons, such as axes, daggers and knives. Horses and donkeys were also buried in the cemetery, a common practice during the Middle Bronze Age.

The 4,000-year-old graves fall into two types- pit graves and shaft tombs. Pit graves were designed for 1 to 3 bodies, while shaft tombs were for up to 40. Excavators were particularly excited by more than 200 scarab rings ornamenting the fingers of the dead in the shaft tombs.

The IAA archaeologists are rushing to excavate the site before developers can proceed with plans to lay a road across the 400,000-square-meter cemetery.

“The contractors are angry at us because we didn’t let them build a neighborhood,” said Levi. “They wanted to build housing, but only a road will be built.”

Meanwhile, the IAA will continue its search for the Canaanite city. “It’s true we haven’t found the city yet, but the area is still covered with dunes,” said Levi. “Hopefully we will discover it soon.”

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