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Qesem Cave and the Lower-Middle Paleolithic Transition


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Qesem Cave and the Levant
Early Modern Human Sites in the Levant and North Africa

Early Modern Human Sites in the Levant and North Africa

Adapted from Asia map by Curtis3250692; data from Frumkin et al.in press and Gopher et al. 2010.

In January 2011, several international news outlets reported that there had been evidence discovered that indicated that Homo sapiens had evolved in Israel. That's not exactly what the accompanying paper, to be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (AJPA) later in 2011, said, but it is what the press release suggested, and its certainly what the news trumpeted. The story of Qesem Cave, located in Israel, within the region called the Levant, is an interesting, and complicated one.

The Levant is what geographers call the countries that touch on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea: Syria, Lebanon, Israel, West Bank, and Jordan. The Levant is an important region in any discussion about the origins of humans on the planet, because it is considered the main pathway that our African ancestors used to leave Africa and colonize the rest of the planet. Currently, most scholars believe that our immediate ancestors, called Early Modern Human (EMH) (and sometimes Anatomically Modern Human (AMH)), evolved in Africa. The oldest sites widely accepted as early modern human are in Ethiopia: Bouri at ~157,000 years old, and Omo Kibish at ~195,000 years old.

The earliest widely-accepted EMH sites in the Levant are at Skhul and Qafzeh Caves at ~85,000-100,000 years ago.


Hershkovitz I, Smith P, Sarig R, Quam R, Rodríguez L, García R, Arsuaga JL, Barkai R, and Gopher A. 2010. Middle pleistocene dental remains from Qesem Cave (Israel). American Journal of Physical Anthropology:n/a-n/a.

See the Bibliography for additional sources.

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