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Kebara Cave (Israel)

Middle Paleolithic and Natufian Occupations on Mount Carmel

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Mt. Carmel, Palestine, ca. 1880-1920, from the Carpenter Collection

Mt. Carmel, Palestine, ca. 1880-1920, from the Carpenter Collection

LoC, via pingnews.com

Kebara Cave is a multicomponent archaeological site, located on the western escarpment of Mount Carmel. Kebara Cave has two important components, Middle Paleolithic Aurignacian and Mousterian, and Epi-Paleolithic Natufian. First occupied about 60,000 years ago, Kebara Cave has a 4-meter-thick occupation deposit containing Levallois stone artifacts, many many hearths, and midden deposits.

The oldest occupations at Kebara Cave are associated with the Middle Paleolithic Aurignacian and Mousterian traditions. Dates range for this occupation between 60,000 and 48,000 years ago. These oldest levels yielded thousands of animal bone--primarily mountain gazelle and Persian fallow deer--much with cutmarks, burned bones, hearths, ash lenses and lithic artifacts leading researchers to believe Kebara Cave was a long-term occupied base camp for its residents.

The recovery of a nearly complete skeleton of a Neanderthal a Kebara bolsters academic opinion that the Middle Paleolithic occupations were strictly Neanderthal.

Initial Upper Paleolithic

Excavations at Kebara in the 1990s identified an Initial Upper Paleolithic occupation, originally dated between 41,000 and 35,600 RCYBP: this is believed to represent an early modern human use of the cave. Features and artifacts associated with this component include hearth areas and Mousterian artifacts with an intensive use of the Levallois technique, attributed to the Early Ahmanian cultural designation. Recent redating of this component suggests that the IUP occupation likely dates between 43,000 and 45,000 cal BP, reducing the gap between the MP and UP occupations of Kebara cave to a few thousand years, and supporting an argument for redating the movement of humans into the Levant. See Rebollo et al. for further information.

Natufian at Kebara Cave

The Natufian component, dated between 11,000 and 12,000 years old, includes a large communal burial pit, with a selection of a large number of sickle blades, lunates, mortars and pestles. Skeletal remains, recently subjected to investigation the site included a burial pit, in which 17 people (11 children and six adults) were buried sequentially, such as that identified at the site of El-Wad. One of the individuals, a mature male, has a stone lunate embedded in his vertabra, and it is apparent that the individual did not live long after his injury. Of the other five individuals buried in the cemetery at Kebara Cave, two exhibit evidence of violence as well. Recent redating of the eali

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Middle Paleolithic, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Albert RM, Weiner S, Bar-Yosef O, and Meignen L. 2000. Phytoliths in the Middle Palaeolithic Deposits of Kebara Cave, Mt Carmel, Israel: Study of the Plant Materials used for Fuel and Other Purposes. Journal of Archaeological Science 27:931–947.

Bocquentin F, and Bar-Yosef O. 2004. Early Natufian remains: evidence for physical conflict from Mt. Carmel, Israel. Journal of Human Evolution 47:19-23.

Lev E, Kislev ME, and Bar-Yosef O. 2005. Mousterian vegetal food in Kebara Cave, Mt. Carmel. Journal of Archaeological Science 32:475–484.

Rebollo NR, Weiner S, Brock F, Meignen L, Goldberg P, Belfer-Cohen A, Bar-Yosef O, and Boaretto E. 2011. New radiocarbon dating of the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in Kebara Cave, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(9):2424-2433.

Speth JD, and Tchernov E. 2002. Middle Paleolithic Tortoise Use at Kebara Cave (Israel). Journal of Archaeological Science 29:471–483.

Rebollo NR, Weiner S, Brock F, Meignen L, Goldberg P, Belfer-Cohen A, Bar-Yosef O, and Boaretto E. 2011. New radiocarbon dating of the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in Kebara Cave, Israel. Journal of Archaeological Science 38(9):2424-2433.

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