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2019-02-16 08:39:40   •   ID: 2076

The Ma'ayan Baruch Acheulian Mega Site in N-Israel

Figure 1
The thick Handaxe of this post was found near the Ma'ayan Baruch Acheulian Mega-site at Banias, North Galilee; Israel.

It shows the typical cordiform appearance and patination of many Ma'ayan Baruch artifacts and a bifacial retouch on both faces and a high degree of symmetry, typical for the site. The base shows limited cortical remnants. The piece has a non-LTC appearance.

Ma'ayan Baruch (Hebrew: מַעְיַן בָּרוּךְ‬, lit. Blessed Spring) is a Kibbutz in northern Israel. It is located near the intersection of the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese border at a strategic important location in the northern part of the Lake Hula plain.

The exceptionally rich Acheulian deposits at Ma’ayan Baruch were mainly collected by Amnon Assaf (1928–2018) who amassed, with the help of family and friends, during his life some 115,000 artifacts from North Galilee, which later formed the foundation for the Upper Galilee Museum of Prehistory at Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch.The Ma'ayan Baruch handaxe sample comprises approximately 6000 Handaxes.

The vertical dispersal of find spots makes it clear that there was significant post-depositional movement of the artifacts however, there is no evidence for high energy transport or abrasion.

Although systematic flint quarrying during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic at "extraction and reduction sites" (Nachal Dishon, Sede Ilan, Mt Achbara) are identified in the region, the source of Ma'ayan Baruch flint is currently unknown.

Figure 2
The Ma'ayan Baruch collection was described by Stekelis and Gilead in 1966 in detail. The authors suggested that this site might have been the centre of an even larger settlement zone.

The morphology of the handaxe shows a wide spectrum - cordiformes, elongated cordiformes, Micoquian handaxes, lanceolated and Almond-shaped bifaces , ovates and disc like forms. Most items show a high symmetry, comparable with distant collections like Boxgrove / UK and different from GBY and Ubeidiya.

Cleavers are also present, in contrast to the paradigm that GBY is the only site in the region with cleavers. This compromises the common opinion, that cleavers must be always an African signal in the Levantine early Paleolithic.

Non-Levallois Flake tools are rare in the collections, but well executed (mainly convergent scraper), their frequency is certainly underestimated by their lower visibility in the field during during the early collecting operations.

During the 1970ies the thousands of bifaces found there without a stratigraphy seemed to have no equivalent outside of Africa and were, in this respect, comparable with African Mega-sites like the Rift Valley sites Kariandusi or Olorgesailie.

In North Africa, especially in the Sahara, large ESA scatters over surfaces thousands of square meters in diameter are literally “paved” with handaxes and cleavers, which may be explained by their visibility on denudated and eroded surfaces, provisioning places with tools ready usable, occupation frequency and repeated visits over time.

Figure 3
Anyhow, the popular view of African connections seems a little bit biased towards the "out of Africa" paradigm. The region around El Kowm in Syria and the enormous cluster at St Acheul in the Somme Valley in N-France with ten thousands of Handaxes findings from the 19th century were equally rich.

How old is the site? It is certainly older than the Acheulo-Yabrudian, and therefore older than 400 k.a. This is also substantiated by the absence of Levallois artifacts. Regarding techno-typological considerations it is younger than GBY at 800k.a. A 500-600 k.a. time slot seems therefore to be reasonable.

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