Atlit Yam is an ancient submerged Neolithic village off the coast of Atlit, Israel. The site is dated to the final Pre-Pottery Neolithic age, 6900-6300 BCE (8900 and 8300 years old). Atlit-Yam provides the earliest known evidence for an agro-pastoral-marine subsistence system on the Levantine coast.
Was this Israeli version of Atlantis washed away in Noah’s flood? Overtaken by a prehistoric tsunami or glacial meltdown? The site was covered by the eustatic rise of sea levels after the end of the Ice age. It is assumed that the contemporary coast-line was about 1 km (a half-mile) west of the present coast. Piles of fish ready for trade or storage have led scientists to conclude that the village was abandoned suddenly. An Italian study led by Maria Pareschi of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Pisa indicates that a volcanic collapse of the eastern flank of Mount Etna 8,500 years ago would likely have caused a 10-story (40 m or 130 ft) tsumani to engulf some Mediterranean coastal cities within hours. Some scientists point to the apparent abandonment of Atlit Yam around the same time as further evidence that such a tsunami did indeed occur. Or could have Noah’s flood occurred at the same time?
It is not clear how the Late Neolithic-era Atlit-Yam village, some 400 meters off the shore between Atlit and Haifa, got submerged.
Discovered in 1984 during an underwater archeological survey, Atlit-Yam was hailed as the largest and best-preserved prehistoric settlement ever uncovered off the Mediterranean coast. The 8,500-year-old village contains rectangular and round structures, 65 human skeletons, seeds of wheat, barley, lentils and flax, and thousands of fish and animal bones.
Underwater excavations have uncovered rectangular houses and a well. Submerged settlements and shipwrecks have been found on the Carmel coast since 1960, in the wake of large-scale sand quarrying.
In 1984, marine archaeologist Ehud Galili spotted ancient remains while surveying the area for shipwrecks. Remains of rectangular houses and hearth-places have been found. Also found was a well that currently lies 10.5 m (35 ft) below sea-level, constructed of dry-stone walling, with a diameter of 1.5 m (5 ft) and a depth of 5.5 m (20 ft) lower. The fill contained flints, artifacts of ground stone and bone, and animal bones in two separate layers. The upper layer contained partly articulated animal bones, which were presumably thrown in after the well went out of use. Other round structures at the site may also be wells. Galili believes that the water in the wells gradually became contaminated with seawater, forcing the inhabitants to abandon their homes.
A stone semicircle, containing seven 600 kg (1,300 lb) megaliths, has been found. The stones have cup marks carved into them and are arranged around a freshwater spring, which suggests that they may have been used for a water ritual.
Ten flexed burials have been discovered, both inside the houses and in their vicinity. The skeletons of a woman and child, found in 2008, have revealed the earliest known cases of tuberculosis. Bone fish-hooks and piles of fish bones ready for trade or storage point to the importance of marine resources.
The men are thought to have dived for seafood, as four skeletons have been found with ear damage, probably caused by diving in cold water. Anthropomorphic stone axes have been found. The lithics include arrowheads, sickle-blades, and axes.
An excavation was mounted by the University of Haifa on October 1, 1987. A complete human burial, in an excellent state of preservation, was discovered under 10m of water on October 4 with the skeleton oriented in a fetal position on the right side. Subsequent carbon dating of plant material recovered from the burial placed the age of the site at 8000 +-200 years.
Animal bones and plant remains have also been preserved. Animal bones come mainly from wild species. The plant remains to include wild grape, poppy, and caraway seeds. Granary weevils indicate the presence of stored grain. Pollen analysis and the remains of marsh plants indicates the local presence of swamps.
The village was washed away. Was it a tsunami or Noah’s Flood? Many commentators have said that Noah’s Flood was not over the whole world, but only in the Mediterranean basin. Alit-Yam fits into that version of the story.
Speaking of doubts, here is one in this story:
Rivkah sprang to the telephone when it rang and listened with relief to the kindly voice in her ear. “How are you, darling?” she said. “What kind of day are you having?”
“Oh, mother,” said Rivka, breaking into bitter tears, “I’ve had such a bad day. Baby Levi won’t eat and the washing machine broke down. I haven’t had a chance to go shopping for Shabbos, and besides, I’ve just sprained my ankle and I have to hobble around. On top of that, the house is a mess and I’m supposed to have two couples for Shabbos dinner this week.”
The mother was shocked and was at once all sympathy. “Oh, darling,” she said, “sit down, relax, and close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll do your shopping, clean up the house, and cook Shabbos for you. I’ll feed the baby and I’ll call a repairman I know who’ll be at your house to fix the washing machine promptly. Now stop crying. I’ll do everything. In fact, I’ll even call David at the office and tell him he ought to come home and help out for once.”
“David?” said Rivkah. “Who’s David?”
“Why, David! Your husband…Is this 223-1374?”
“No, this is 223-1375.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I have the wrong number.”
There was a short pause and Rivkah said, “Does this mean you’re not coming over?”