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2016-09-06 05:52:30   •   ID: 1501

Early Middle Paleolithic (EMP) from the Mt. Carmel

Figure 1 shows a 13 cm long Tabun–D Levallois point, named to the largest of the Carmel caves in Israel near Haifa.

Figure 1
Prehistoric Archaeology at the Mt. Carmel: When, in 1927, the British Mandatory government’s Public Works Department initiated the Haifa Harbor Project and quarrying threatened to destroy the caves’ cliff, Mr. Charles Lambert, Assistant Director of the Mandatory Department of Antiquities of Palestine, was assigned to check the complex of caves at Wadi el-Mughara to see whether it was worth saving.

In autumn 1928 Lambert made five soundings in el-Wad Cave, three inside and two on the terrace, resulting in several important discoveries. In fact, Lambert was the first to unveil the Natufian layers at el-Wad and to establish their stratigraphy.

On the terrace, amongst stone walls and grinding implements, he came upon two burials, later known to be Natufian, the first ever unearthed at Mount Carmel. Inside the cave, a bone sickle handle carved as a young animal was found, the first prehistoric art ever published in the Near East.

The subsequent recognition of the Wadi el-Mughara caves (Tabun, Jamal, el-Wad and Skhul) as archaeologically important, and their registration as an antiquity site, was followed by six years of excavation directed, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and the American School of Prehistoric Research, by Dorothy A.E. Garrod (Garrod and Bate 1937).

The Lower and Middle Paleolithic cave fillings from Tabun cave were opened during 1929. Ninety years of archaeological research have revealed a cultural sequence of unparalleled duration, providing an archive of early human life in south-west Asia.

This 54 ha property contains cultural deposits representing at least 500,000 years of human evolution demonstrating the unique existence of both Neanderthals and Early Anatomically Modern Humans within the same Middle Palaeolithic cultural framework, the Mousterian.

Evidence from numerous Natufian burials and early stone architecture represents the transition from a hunter-gathering lifestyle to agriculture and animal husbandry. As a result, the caves have become a key site of the chrono-stratigraphic framework for human evolution in general, and the prehistory of the Levant in particular.

Figure 2 shows the Tabun section today.
Figure 2
(GNU Free Documentation License)

Tabun–D points fit perfectly into a laminar phenomenon, found across the Levant around  200 k.a. BP. During the last 25 years it has been shown, that there is a lot of variability in these ensembles both by the chaine opératoires that was used and the typology of  the desired end-products.  

Several types of “Points” have been described, although the boundaries between the types are volatile and reworking could easily change one type into another.

Elongated blades / points have recently systematically described by their morphology and technology by Alla Yaroshevich, Yossi Zaidner, and Mina Weinstein-Evron from Misliya Cave, which is located on  the western slopes of  Mount Carmel, slightly to the south of Nahal (Wadi) Sefunim, at an elevation of ca. 90 m, some 12 km south of Haifa and ca. 7 km north of Wadi el-Mughara.

Figure 3
Excavations were carried out between 2001–2010 and revealed a rich EMP layer spread over the Upper Terrace of this collapsed cave  below a residual rock shelter. Preliminary TL dates on burned flint artifacts from the site suggest that they are older than 200 k.a. , thus corroborating the dates recently obtained for the same cultural phase in the nearby Tabun Cave.

Figure 3 shows analogies from a Levallois- Moustierian collection from South Italy with similar characteristics (Dating from MIS5 or late 3):

  • Levallois point : Figure one shows an unusual elongated form

  • Retouched Levallois points: Levallois points, non-elongated with uni- or bilateral retouche

  • Abu-Sif points: elongated Mousterian points retouched along both edges by continuous retouche. Made from Laminar or Levallois convergent, Preferential preparation

  • Hummal points: points with one fully or almost fully retouched edge opposite an edge that is either unretouched or retouched only on the tip Made predominantly on blades; some are possibly made on Levallois blanks.

  • Misliya points with tip modified by abrupt retouch in the form of an oblique truncation. Misliya points are made on small thin blades, Levallois as well as non-Levallois, or on small Levallois points.

  • Unnamed Points with bifacial, alternate or ventral retouch: points made on Levallois and non-Levallois elongated blanks and modified with invasive retouch which may be either bifacial, alternating or on the ventral surface

  • Off-set points with retouch creating either an oblique truncation or an arch-like back

Figure 4
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Figure 4: Elongated Points from Neuville - Le Paléolithique et le Mésolithique du Désert de Judée. Archives de l'I.P.H., n° 24, 1951.

Suggested Readings: see external links

Provenance: Collection Levenstein and Baronetti