Beneath the Surface: Uncovering the Mysteries of Atlit-Yam, a Submerged Neolithic Community.

Off the coast of the village of Atlit is Atlit Yam, a sunken Neolithic settlement located off the coast of Atlit in present-day Israel.

Atlit-Yam, underwater ceremonial structure made of stone. © Image credit: Hanay – CC BY-SA 3.0

The site dates from 6900 to 6300 BC, is about 10 meters below current sea level and covers an area of ​​40,000 square meters.

Tectonic tilt and climate change caused the marshes along the Israeli coastal plain to dry up in the early Holocene. The reclaimed land along the retreating coast was settled by Neolithic peoples during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPNB) and then the Ceramic Neolithic, until sea level rise high submerged ancient settlements to depths of 8-12 meters below the surface.

For centuries, this site remained hidden 10 meters below the ocean waves and was discovered after a major storm in 1984. Scientists found special stones used for religious ceremonies . © Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Atlit Yam was settled around 6900 BC, with the inhabitants surviving by farming-pastoral-maritime occupations.

In just one assemblage, more than 8755 flint artefacts were recovered, while numerous arrowheads, crescents, bifaces, spearheads and bifaced flail knives were unearthed. © Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
The villagers dug a deep well to a depth of 10.5 meters through layers of soft clay and sandstone, lined with rocks and with a circular, tumor-like structure. During the deposition of marine sediments inside the well, underwater archaeologists found hundreds of heat-fractured limestone pebbles, animal bones, stone tools, waterlogged plant remains, and carbonized, along with some human bone fragments. © Image credit: Public domain

Scientists believe that Atlit-Yam was suddenly abandoned as a result of a tsunami that hit the area, most likely caused by a volcanic eruption in the Mediterranean region.

Human skeleton in a flexed position, discovered at Atlit-Yam. Near or within ceremonial structures, 15 human skeletons were discovered, mostly in single graves or relatively intact, or with only a few bone fragments, all showing varying degrees of hypoplasia together. © Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists are particularly interested in the discovery of two skeletons, one of a woman and one of a child, which represent the earliest known cases of tuberculosis.


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