Manot Man: Modern Humans and Neanderthals in Israel

 

tabun

This is a 7 cm long Levallois Point from a site in Northern Israel, made by Neanderthals or AHMs.

Around 90-100 k.a. (OIS5) there is first evidence in the Levant for modern humans leaving Africa, where the caves of Mugharet es-Skhul and Jebel Qafzeh (Israel) have yielded the remains of over 20 individuals, many of whom appeared to have been intentionally buried.  AMHs at these sites used Levallois technologies with little evidence of laminar production. They feature a lithic chaîne opératoire emphasizing the production of broad oval Levallois flakes by centripetal Levallois core preparation. In this respect, the lithic assemblages from Qafzeh XVII-XXIV are broadly comparable with those from Tabun C.

Middle Paleolithic assemblages from inside Qafzeh cave and from Levels I-XV differ somewhat from earlier levels, with Level XV showing a greater emphasis on triangular flake production by unidirectional convergent Levallois core preparation. The lithic production from broadly contemporaneous strata at the newly discovered open air site at Nesher Ramla in N-Israel, where no human remains were found up to now, is quite different, showing a larger variability of knapping activities during OIS5, than suggested before.

OIS4 /and early OIS3 are characterized by a rich Neanderthal fossil record in the Levant known from Amud, Kebara, Geula and Dederiyeh (75–48 k.a.).  This record was used to postulate, that Homo sapiens retreated to Africa after OIS5 and was not be present in the Middle East until ca 40-45 k.a.

Until recently, the oldest known Homo sapiens (“Egbert” [Ksar Akil 1]) known from the area had been found at Ksar Akil in 1938. The remains of a juvenile individual were found in level XVII (or XVIII) at the Ksar Akil site. These levels are associated with the Early Ahmarian, an early Upper Palaeolithic industry in the Levant.

The overall picture seemed therefore to be clear: Whenever the climate was warm, the region would be occupied by modern humans; when it was cool it would be occupied by Neanderthals. There seemed to be no Sympatry between AHMs and Neanderthals in the Middle East. Neanderthals, the makers of the Levallois-Mousterian, died out in the Levant at ca 40 k.a, while Homo sapiens, coming back from East Africa, the Nile valley or the Arabic peninsula again, invented the Upper Paleolithic (maybe in the Negev) and conquered the world.

This was a twofold mistake because the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence and because there is only a poor correlation between hominins and their lithic technocomplexes.

A Cranium discovery from Manot cave in North Israel shows that Homo sapiens was living in the Middle East already 55 k.a. ago.  This is one mayor result from a paper published last week. The enormous Manot cave was discovered by chance when a bulldozer broke through the roof while cutting a sewer trench for a nearby village and is excavated since 2009. The original cave entrance was blocked following the collapse of the roof, probably between 30 -15 k.a. ago. (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature14134.html).

The first question is if  this AHM represent the “successful second wave“ from Africa  after the unsuccessful colonization of the Levant by the Skhul/Qafzeh humans or if AHMs stayed in the levant after their first colonisazion. Regarding that Manot man was found more than 70 years after “Egbert”  it is not unrasonable to assume that other  AHM fossils will be detected in the future, dating to OIS4 and close the gap between  Skhul/Qafzeh and Manot.We should not easily dismiss the idea of a continuous presence of AHMs in the Levant  during OIS5-3.

Another question deals about the technocomplexes in the cave that would be left by Manot man. Archeologists found typical tools from the Levantine Levallois-Mousterian and stratified Upper Palaeolithic tools, which display characteristics both of the Ahmarian and Aurignacian. The Upper Paleolithic at the site was dated between 41 and 30 k.a. cal BP. There is any reason to assume, that Manot man produced Middle Paleolithic tools at 55 k.a. BP, which were not very different from those made by Neanderthals at the same time.

Anyhow, Manot man also tells us how the hominids looked like, shortly before they entered Eurasia and is an archeological proof  that AMHs had the chance to interbreed with Neanderthals during  OIS3 as already predicted by genetic data.

(all dates are in expressed in  calendar years)

Another artifacts from the same site:

tabuni

taba

Suggested Readings: 

http://antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/marder337/

http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.aspx?id=2183

http://www.israel-nachrichten.org/archive/14383

 

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