Review of Lower Paleolithic site locations in Israel, possibly controlled by deposition and erosion processes

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Alternating Quaternary humid and dry climates in Israel broadly correspond to European glacials and interglacials. The humid periods are typified by gentle rains almost all year round, enhancing rich vegetation, low Mediterranean sea levels, build-up of gravel and loess beds inland, intense pedogenic processes, forming red soils, and considerable areal expansion of the Dead Sea Rift lakes. The dry phases are characterized by winter thunderstorms, causing floods and severe erosion in the elevated regions, degrading the vegetation; sea levels were high, pushing sand dunes covering large parts of the southern coastal plain. Soils have hardly been formed, while former ones had been partly washed away; and the Rift Valley lakes shrank into marshes. Lower Paleolithic sites have almost exclusively been found embedded in sediments of humid periods, typified by pollen spectra rich in arboreal components. These sediments had been correlated with humid palynozones, known from continuous pollen diagrams in the Dead Sea Rift, which have been dated by correlation with the ocean oxygen isotope record. "Classic" explanations call for a total dependence of "primitive" man on the elements, wandering in pursuit of wetter environments. It is suggested here that man may have continuously lived in Israel, with sites located during the dry interpluvials in river or wadi courses close to perennial springs or river beds, near lakes, but probably not on the dune-covered coastal plain, except near marshes. A subsequent humid climate caused coverage of lakeside sites by sediments of the expanding lake, thus obscuring the sites from further discovery. The increasing amounts of rain and floods at the termination of dry periods caused erosion of sites located near wadi and river beds, while most of the paludine sediments of the coastal plain had been eroded toward the retreating Mediterranean or covered by dunes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-145
Number of pages9
JournalIsrael Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996


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