An exceptional find uncovered about a week ago demonstrates how to start a fire in the field without matches or a lighter. A rare stone slab that was apparently used by the country’s ancient inhabitants for lighting fire nine thousand years ago was exposed in an archaeological excavation of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in which students of the Hannaton pre-military preparatory program participated. The excavations are taking place at the junction of Highway 38 and Virginia Boulevard in Ramat Bet Shemesh as part of an upgrade and expansion project funded by Netivei Israel, and they attest to the existence of advanced technology for igniting fire.
According to prehistorian Anna Eirikh-Rose, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "The ancient people who lived here during the Pre-pottery Neolithic B period (the New Stone Age) prepared a thick limestone slab with two depressions in it and grooves between them that connected the hollows. Some think this is an ancient game board but according to researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, such slabs were used for starting fire: this device made it possible to rapidly rotate a wooden branch in the hollow (similar to a drill). The rotational energy was translated into heat, and when it came in contact with a flammable material placed inside the hollow, it began to burn and the fire was lit. There are only about ten similar slabs from this period in the National Treasures; thus it is a rare artifact. Additional finds uncovered in the excavation include a fragment of a bracelet, flint tools, and numerous animal bones”.
The Ackerstein Company, which is managing the Highway 38 project on behalf of Netivei Israel, said, “It is exciting every time a rare piece of history is found thanks to the innovative infrastructure work that Netivei Israel is implementing in building the country”.
Evidence of producing fire in the region, in the form of ash and charcoal, already exists from the Old Stone Age – about 800,000 years ago; burnt seeds and flint chips were exposed at Gesher Bnot Ya?akov in the north of the country. The use of fire became significantly more important some 10,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Evidence of this is reflected by various finds from the period that are related to different fire-generating technologies.