A land before time in Israel: from dinosaur tracks to prehistoric caves

June 24, 2015
guest blogger

When people think of historical sites in Israel, their minds understandably jump to biblical history. Certainly, destinations like Nazareth, the remains of Herod’s palace in Jerusalem, and Golgotha Hill are more than deserving of a visit. But the rich history of Israel extends much further back than the biblical period, and reveals a fascinating past.

Here are a few of the top prehistoric sites in Israel…

Dinosaur tracks in Beit Zayit

Just a five minute drive from Jerusalem sits a pretty little village by the name of Beit Zayit. This village is perhaps best known for its impressive reservoir and dam, but it’s gaining fascination across the globe for a set of footprints discovered in the ’80s. Beit Zayit is home to what is so far the only known dinosaur tracks in all of Israel, prints belonging to an ostrich-like dinosaur called the Struthiomimus. Please note that reservations have to be made to access the site. For low-cost accommodations, both of the HI Jerusalem hostels – the Agron and Yitzhak Rabin hostels – are about a 20-minute drive from Beit Zayit.


Yitzhak Rabin

Prehistoric caves in Mount Carmel


Credit: Eliane Kobayakawa

If the caves of Mount Carmel were good enough for the homo erectus  of one million years ago, then they should be plenty good enough for the tourists of today. The Nahal HaMearot or Wadi of the Caves Nature Reserve is Israel’s eighth UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was discovered in 1929 when archaeologist Dorothy Garrod uncovered evidence of a continuous human settlement lasting 800,000 years, spanning from the Acheulian culture of approximately one million years ago to the Natufians culture from around 12,000 BC. HI Haifa hostel which is re-opening its doors this year will put you in close proximity to this truly wondrous prehistoric location.

The ancient city of Beit She’an

One of the most ancient cities in all of Israel, Beit She’an was first settled 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, and the archaeological remains can be admired in the National Park of Beit She’an. Among the remains are the wall of the city, a theatre that is still used, a public bath house, a Roman temple, a decorative fountain building, a pair of colonnaded streets, a basilica, and a magnificent reconstructed mosaic that boasts the Roman Goddess of Good Fortune handling the Horn of Plenty. And those are only some of the remains that are still accessible. Beit She’an had many conquerors and has remains intact from many eras. HI Beit She’an has a location in the city of Beit She’an near the National Park.

HI Beit She’an

Anyone truly wishing to uncover the gems of Israel’s history is more than welcome to take a trip back in time, and truly experience how it all began in this exceptionally unique region. 

By the Israel Youth Hostels Association (IYHA) 

 Got a unique time travel experience to share with us? Leave your story in the comment box below.  


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