A group of first grade pupils from Benzion Netanyahu school in the Samaria-area West Bank settlement Barkan recently uncovered an unprecedented archaeological find: a stone-age hunting knife from 10,000 years ago — the earliest evidence of settlement in the region.
The school is in its second year of a program that brings the classroom outside all year long in an attempt to physically and spiritually connect the pupils with their Holy Land roots. In addition to the ancient flint hunting knife, pupils have uncovered Talmudic-era mosaic pieces and coins at the school excavation near the Barkan industrial zone, about 25 kilometers from Tel Aviv.
The project is a partnership between the Samaria regional council, Ariel University, and the Dagesh Archaeological Tourism company, and it appears to be achieving its goals. One fourth grader said his dream is now to become an archaeologist. “I really enjoy being here and it’s a lot more fun and interesting than learning in the classroom. Even though there aren’t any chairs or air conditioning, it’s good for us to learn here,” said Eden.
Archaeologist Achiya Cohen Tavor, who works with the students at the site, said the 10,000-year-old hunting knife or spear tip is “without a doubt one of the most impressive and fascinating artifacts to be found at the site. It appears to be the first evidence of the existence of life in Samaria, already from the Stone Age,” said Cohen Tavor.
In other areas of Israel and the West Bank, there is rich evidence of Stone Age settlement. In 2016, archaeologists discovered the remains of a prehistoric village in the Jordan Valley west of the Sea of Galilee, dating from around 12,000 years ago. That site is unique in that it preserved cultural characteristics typical of both the Old Stone Age — known as the Paleolithic period — and the New Stone Age, known as the Neolithic period.
Earlier, in 2012, an excavation at Tel Motza, a Stone Age site outside Jerusalem which appears to have been one of the largest settlements in the area at that time, uncovered two stone animal figurines, a ram and a buffalo, from 9,000 years ago. A year later, archaeologists at a site near Haifa discovered obsidian arrowheads and fertility objects, such as a stone phallus and a carved depiction of female genitalia that date from the same period.
Happily, the children in the Samaria settlement discovered a hunting tool and had no need to include sex ed in their outdoor lessons at Barkan.
Head of the regional council Yossi Dagan said the council has made education a priority, earmarking more than half of its budget to enriching it.
“We are certain that the students who took part in the excavations are not only learning a love of research and information, but also are being emotionally connected to this land. And there is nothing more important than that,” said Dagan.
School principal Yael Ayalon and the first-grade teacher Malka Rothschild said, “Beyond the exciting discovery, the most important thing that occurred here is really that the students see that it is possible to find interest in learning and research outside the walls of the classroom too… we have awoken their curiosity to the outside world.”
Times of Israel staff contributed.