The Harifian Epipaleolithic complex was first investigated by an expedition under the direction of A.E. Marks from 1969-1974. Mount Harif is located at the highest elevations of the central Negev Desert adjacent to the Sinai Peninsula at elevations of between about 900 and 1000 meters above sea level. The region comprises a series of narrow plateaus and rolling hills sharply dissected by deep wadis and the escarpment overlooking Sinai.
The lithic assemblages of the Harifian exhibit small geometries in the form of lunates (some of them are Helwan lunates) and triangles and the Harif point as “diagnostic” tool. For the first time arrowheads are found among the stone tool kit during the Levantine Epipaleolithic. The microburin technique was used in the Harifian to produce basally-tanged Harif points and probably geometric microliths.
The Harifian corresponds to the latest stages of the Natufian culture in the Southern Levant during the younger Dryas. It is restricted to the Sinai and Negev, and is probably broadly contemporary with the Late Natufian further North and the PPNA of the Jordan valley, indicated by the presence of PPNA Khiam points in some Harifian ensembles. Like the Natufian, it is characterized by semi-subterranean houses. These are often more elaborate than those found at Natufian sites. Animal bones represent the hunting of local fauna: gazelle, ibex and hare. Grinding tools, mortars, and cup-holes indicate the processing of unknown plant food elements. Large collections of marine shells demonstrate tight networks with both the Red Sea and Mediterranean shores.
The prevailing opinion indicated that the Harifian culture is a desertic adaptation of the Late Natufian to the cold, dry conditions of the Younger Dryas, lasting not longer than 300-500 years. However, given their archeological disappearance leaving a large area of 8000-30000 square kilmeters uninhabited for about one thousand years, the Harifian may be interpreted as the unsuccessful effort of the local Late Natufian population to adapt to the harsh Younger Dryas conditions in their territory.