The remains of the game room that was discovered next to a an ancient workplace. The remains of the game room that was discovered next to a an ancient workplace. The remains of the game room that was discovered next to a an ancient workplace. (Photo: Asaf Peretz / Israel Antiquities Authority)

Archaeologists discover an ancient work space that mirrors today's startups

Complex includes a pottery workshop, a game room and spa just like to today's Google offices.

Israel is often dubbed Startup Nation for its high concentration of entrepreneurial companies that are based in the Mediterranean country. Indeed, more than 6,000 iPhone app developers are based there.

So it's no wonder then, that the country's storied history would mimic its present. Just like Google's office in Tel Aviv features a sauna and game rooms, so too does the startups of Israel's past. During an excavation to build a new neighborhood in central Israel, archeologists unearthed the remains of a pottery workshop. In a country replete with ancient discoveries on a near-daily basis, that wasn't so surprising. But the team also found remnants of a spa and game room on site as well.

Alla Nagorsky, the excavation director on the project, said that it reminds her of a modern-day startup. Alla Nagorsky, the excavation director on the project, said that it reminds her of a modern-day startup. (Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority)

“Archaeology reminds us that few things are new in this world," said Alla Nagorsky and Tamar Harpak, the excavation directors of behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. "Just as Google set up a recreation area in their workplace, so did the ancients. We can fantasize that the recreation room may have been used by the factory workers or by the visitors to the baths."

In particular, the archaeologists discovered six board games – two used in backgammon and four for mankala, one of the oldest strategy board games ever played. "Three of the boards were found in a long storeroom and one near a bench, as if the players had just left for a minute," the researchers noted. "In the same room many fragments of glass cups and bowls were retrieved in a small cupboard-like unit.”

Many local teens participated in the excavation, which has taken place over the past year.

A view of one of the boards that held game pieces in the indentations. A view of one of the boards that held game pieces in the indentations. (Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority)

The discovery is just the latest in a string of archaeological discoveries in Israel of late. In recent months, archaeologists discovered the lost home of Jesus' apostles, found out that the Mediterranean may have been home to 16th-century pirates, and that colored fabrics were found in an ancient copper mine. To help store the influx of findings, a 350,000-square-foot complex is being built in Jerusalem. It will soon open to the public and be home to two million ancient artifacts.

For many, Israel is the epicenter of archaeological studies. "If you want to really study human evolution, you have to come to Israel," Israel Hershkovitz, one of the country's leading archaeologists, told From The Grapevine. "You have to start with Ethiopia in East Africa, where everything had began. But afterwards, if you want to know more about human expansion and about the evolution of our own species, you have to come to Israel because Israel is really the central part."

The potter’s fingerprints on the handle of a 1500-year old storage jar that was found at the site. The potter’s fingerprints on the handle of a 1,500-year old storage jar that was found at the site. (Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority)

He continued: "Over hundreds of centuries, people were coming and going and we witnessed all of the major historical events, globally, had some impact on this small piece of land. Really we have a huge amount where we can contribute a lot to the understanding of human history and human evolution in general."

After all, as we see in the case of the ancient startups, history tends to repeat itself.

A birds-eye view of the excavation site. A birds-eye view of the excavation site. (Photo: Yitzhak Marmeshltein / Israel Antiquities Authority)

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Related Topics: Archaeology