Ancient burial ground found near Bethlehem

Jerusalem: Archaeologists discovered a 4,000 years old necropolis near the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, according to a media report.

Located on the side of a hill, the site, called Khalet al-Jam'a, was discovered in 2013 during the construction of an industrial park, Live Science reported on Friday.

Used roughly between 2200 B.C. and 650 B.C., the necropolis once held more than 100 tombs and was a burial ground for a nearby settlement whose location is yet unknown, according to a joint Italian-Palestinian team of archaeologists.

The site's "long-lasting utilisation, over a millennium and a half or more, and the large number of tombs, suggest that Khalet al-Jam'a was the necropolis of a major settlement in the area, possibly a town," Lorenzo Nigro from the Sapienza University of Rome, wrote in an article published in the journal Vicino Oriente.

"Typical pieces of the burial sets are finely executed carinated bowls, small shouldered jars/bowls with everted rim[s], one-spouted lamps, huge and well-refined Canaanite jars with two or four handles, as well as bronze daggers and spearheads," Nigro wrote.

Though the necropolis has been partly destroyed by looting and construction, the archaeologists were able to identify at least 30 tombs.

"The necropolis of Khalet al-Jam'a is mainly characterised by shaft tombs with single or multiple rock-cut chambers," the team wrote in another paper published in Vicino Oriente.

The necropolis stopped being used after 650 B.C. And the name Bethlehem stopped appearing in ancient documents for several centuries until reappearing around the time of Christ.

"It seems that the town suffered a crisis," Nigro wrote, "What exactly happened in Bethlehem around 650 B.C. is unclear".

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