JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists uncovered a well dating back 8,500 years to the Neolithic Period (late Stone Age), believed to have been used by the first farmers in the Jezreel Valley.
The IAA team uncovered the well during a pre-construction excavation near Enot Nisanit in the western end of the valley. Israeli law requires an excavation prior to any construction, in this case before engineers enlarge a major junction on Highway 66, a north-south highway in the Jezreel Valley.
Inside the 8-meter-deep (26 feet) well, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of a woman, thought to be about 19 years old, and an older man.
Excavation director Yotam Tepper said though it's difficult to determine the cause of death, the bodies would have made the well unusable.
"What is clear is that after these unknown individuals fell into the well, it was no longer used for the simple reason that the well water was contaminated and was no longer potable," he said.
The lower part of the well was hewn from bedrock and the upper part constructed with rocks that narrowed toward the top, which was covered by two capstones.
Archaeologists found a variety of farm implements inside the well.
"Numerous artifacts indicating the identity of the people who quarried it -- the first farmers of the Jezreel Valley -- were recovered from inside the well," Tepper said.
The finds included flint sickle blades used for harvesting, arrow heads and other stone implements.
The team also found animal bones and other organic substances, including charcoal, which will help date the well more precisely. Tepper said the artifacts may help them learn more about how animals and plants were domesticated.