Chalcolithic groundwater mining in the southern Levant: open, vertical shafts in the Late Chalcolithic central coastal plain settlement landscape of Israel

Edwin C.M. van den Brink, Oren Ackermann, Yaakov Anker, Yeshua Dray, Gilad Itach, Eriola Jakoel, Reuven Kapul, Joel Roskin, Steve Weiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Levantine adaptive water subsistence and exploitative water management studies concerning late pre- and proto-history have intensified since 2000. This comes in the wake of findings concerning domestic water (e.g., groundwater wells and surface irrigation systems) in particular in the eastern Mediterranean basin. Excavations conducted over the last 15 years on Israel's central coastal plain revealed several clusters of anthropogenic, vertical, narrow, deep shafts, apparently disassociated from contemporary settlement or burial localities. The shafts were cut through local kurkar and/or hamra soils. Despite their seemingly isolated, open-space locations within the settlement landscape, the shaft fills yielded a rich, albeit secondary source of typical settlement waste, consisting mostly of discarded pottery vessels, chipped- and ground-stone tools, and faunal remains. All these remains date exclusively to within the Late Chalcolithic period (LC1), contemporary with and relatable to the Beer Sheva aspect of the period (c. 4200 cal BC-3900 cal BC). This paper reviews the current state of research vis à vis these shafts in the eastern Mediterranean basin, in an attempt to integrate the recently recorded phenomenon of Late Chalcolithic shaft clusters in Israel's central coastal plain, into the framework of artificial groundwater wells from the early Pre-Pottery Neolithic through the Late Chalcolithic periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-270
Number of pages35
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper is the partial outcome of a seminar held April 29, 2018 in the IAA Central District’s office in Tel Aviv, organized by the first author and E. Jakoel. Participants to the seminar included Oren Ackermann (macro-morphology), Yotam Asher, Omry Barzilai, Nathan Ben-Ari, Elisabetta Boaretto (carbon 14 dating), Lena Brailovsky, Yeshu Dray, Peter Gendelman, Nimrod Getzov, Gil Haklai, Gilad Itach, Reuven Kapul (micro-morphology), Maayan Lev (archaeozoology), Ianir Milevski, Hagar Reshef (archaeozoology), Dina Shalem, Maayan Shemer, Kobi Vardi, Stephen Weiner (micro-morphology) and Alla Yaroshevich. We are indebted to all for their shown interest and input during the seminar’s discussions. We would further like to thank Vered Eshed, Karolina Hruby, Gilad Itach, Maayan Lev, Nimrod Marom, Hagar Reshef and Danny Rosenberg for their kind permission to refer to some of the results of their unpublished reports and papers. We would like to thank N. Marom (Haifa University), M. Lev and H. Reshef (TA university) for their kind permission to refer to unpublished faunal data from the Nissim Aloni Street site. We are indebted to Anastasia Shapiro for composing the map illustrated here as Fig. 1, while the basis of the map for Fig. 2 was kindly provided by Gilad Itach. We are thankful for the Antiquities Authority’s permission to include the various illustrations throughout this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© Council for British Research in the Levant 2020.


  • Late Chalcolithic
  • aquiclude
  • cool storage
  • groundwater
  • shafts
  • underground storage
  • water management
  • wells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • History
  • Archaeology


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