World’s Oldest Fresh-water Well Found on Ocean Floor Near Atlit

The world’s oldest fresh-water well has been found on the ocean floor about 1,300 feet offshore from Atlit, on the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa.

Its age has been estimated at 8,000 years, which is about 1,000 years older than the previous oldest well discovered in Turkey, according to Ehud Galili, head of the Atlit Yam project, who was in charge of the digging last summer.

The project is sponsored by the Education Ministry’s Antiquities Authority. Digging has been under way for six seasons.

The 26-foot-deep well lies about 16 feet below the ocean surface but was originally about 1,300 feet inland from the shore. It appears to have been abandoned as a well when salt water encroached on the land as the sea level rose at the end of the last Ice Age.

It was used as a garbage dump for about 150 years, until the village was forced to move further inland because of the advancing sea.

The debris and sand helped preserve the well. Its discoverers said they were amazed by the sophisticated technology of its construction. The builders walled it with close-fitting stones starting from the top and working downward, which is how wells are constructed in modern times.

The detritus inside and scattered around the well are enabling archaeologists to reconstruct a pre-pottery Neolithic “B” period village. The remains show a village that covered an area of 10 acres and was populated by some 30 families.

It provides a picture of a Stone Age society during the period when prehistoric man was making the transition from nomad to farmer.

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