Olive Grove, Galilee Meron Mountain, North IsraelOlive Grove, Galilee Meron Mountain, North IsraelPeople have been planting olive groves in northern Israel for thousands of years. (Photo: Boris Diakovsky/Shutterstock)

Archaeologists discover that ancient farmers were surprisingly high-tech

Israeli civilizations from 5,000 B.C. seem to have used advanced irrigation techniques.

Seven thousand years ago, you might picture ancient farmers waiting for the rain to water their crops, or perhaps dragging pots of water from nearby streams on particularly dry summers.

But to their surprise, archaeologists from Israel's University of Haifa and the German Archaeological Institute recently discovered that ancient civilizations may have used advanced irrigation techniques to grow their crops. These people weren't just farmers; they were engineers.

How'd the scientists discover this? They found hundreds of olive pits in an excavation in northeastern Israel.

olive pitsScientists knew people in the area ate olives and used olive oil, but they were surprised to find so many olive pits in one place. (Photo: Courtesy of University of Haifa)

While scientists have long known that people in the region ate olives and used olive oil, they were surprised to find them in that particular spot.

"Olives do not grow naturally in the Jordan Valley," Professor Daniel Rosenberg, a University of Haifa professor running this research, told From the Grapevine. "Today, they are all irrigated." This indicates to him that ancient peoples probably would have needed irrigation to grow olives there too.

“The existence of an ancient agricultural system that relies on artificial irrigation will require a significant change in how we perceive their agricultural sophistication,” Rosenberg explained.

The region where they found the pits is particularly important since it's considered the cradle of civilization – the famous ancient cities and cultures of the Near East grew out of it.

A researcher on the dig holds up some of the discovered pits.A researcher on the dig holds up some of the discovered pits. (Photo: Courtesy of University of Haifa)

Ancient people lived and died so long ago that it's easy to think they must have been primitive and technologically backwards. But discoveries like this suggest that, perhaps, ancient people aren't so different than us after all.

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