Retouched tools from the Middle Paleolithic in Israel

carmel aggsbach katzman

There is always something new regarding the Paleolithic Archeology of Israel. Beside GBY (Acheulian)  excavations at Misliya and Qesem Cave (Yabroudian), were executed during the last 10 years (http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/09/yabroudian/). At these sites our ancestors were engaged in large-game hunting and  the habitual use of fire was demonstrated. In addition advanced raw-material-procurement strategies were performed. A nice demonstration for the unity of the “genus homo” between 700-200 k.a. BP!

Her I display a retouched broad and rather thick Levalloisian point ( length 2,5 cm) from the Carmel region in Israel. Some people would call it even a Mousterian Point on a Levalloisian flake. Retouched Levalloisian points and scraper are rare in Israel postdating the “Tabun C” ensembles (Early Middle Paleolithic around 200-170 k.a.), where retouching was more common (e.g on Abu Sif knifes or Humallian points ).

It was therefore a surprise that a team of Israeli scientists reported the discovery of a Paleolithic occupation site near Nesher Ramla [Ramla (Hebrew: רַמְלָה, Ramlāh; Arabic: الرملة‎, ar-Ramlah] , Israel with highly curated / (formüberarbeiteten) tools. The carbonate bedrock in the area is characterized by surface depressions formed by gravitational sagging of the rock into underlying karst voids. In one such depression, an 8 m thick sequence comprising rich and well-preserved lithic and faunal assemblages, combustion features, hundreds of manuports and ochre was discovered. The site presents evidence for human occupation or use during MIS 6/5 (190-70 k.a. BP).

The lithic artifacts were of the Levallois-Mousterian tradition, and included Levallois cores, flakes, retouched Levallois and Mousterian points, and side-scrapers. The Nesher Ramla industry lacks true laminar and elongated Levallois components, which are common during the early Middle Paleolithic in Israel. Instead the Nesher Ramla artifacts are dominated by short, broad Levallois flakes. The tool-kit is highly standardized and consists of only a few dominant types. The lower levels of the site are characterized by a high frequency of carefully prepared side-scrapers, unprecedented in open-air sites and in the vast majority of caves in the Levant. The presence of scraper rejuvenation flakes indicates on-site recycling and resharpening of side-scrapers. There are also examples of carefully retouched Mousterian points. Ironically the ensemble could  easily confounded with a typical European Mousterian toolkit. This high reliance on curated tools has now to be explained.

Nesher Ramla is the third Levantine Mousterian site in which remains of ochre have been found. Small chunks of ochre were found throughout the sequence. To date, only Skhul and Qafzeh have yielded ochre, both sites inhabited during roughly the same time as Nesher Ramla. The implication of pigment use have been described elsewhere in this blog (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/01/pigments-goethite-in-the-msa-and-middle-paleolithic/)

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