Seasonality, duration of the hominin occupations and hunting grounds at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave (Israel)

Florent Rivals, Ruth Blasco, Jordi Rosell, Bar Efrati, Avi Gopher, Ran Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The behaviour and mobility of hominins are dependent on the availability of biotic and abiotic resources, which, in temperate ecosystems, are strongly related to seasonality. The objective of this study is to establish evidence of seasonality and duration of occupation(s) of specific archaeological contexts at late Lower Palaeolithic Qesem Cave based on the study of ungulate teeth. Combining individual ageing using dental eruption and replacement with variability measurement of tooth microwear, we estimated the seasonality of occupations at different levels of the site and their relative duration. Information about the diet of the ungulates and the habitats where they were hunted was also derived from tooth mesowear and microwear analyses. In the different tooth assemblages analysed, where the fallow deer was the most abundant herbivorous species, animals were selectively hunted in specific habitats. For example, the fallow deer individuals brought back to the Hearth area had a different diet than those found in other parts of the cave. The Hearth area seems to have been used seasonally, probably during short-term events and more than once a year. The other areas of the cave show different seasons of game procurement and different patterns of occupation of the site, possibly more than once a year or, alternatively, for a longer period. The data suggest that Qesem Cave was inhabited by human groups for a long period, perhaps not continuously, and their knowledge of the environment surrounding the cave allowed them to allocate specific game, most probably from distinct hunting grounds, to designated activity areas at the cave. We hypothesise that the difference in feeding locations might have been related to specific needs of the cave inhabitants (food, hide and marrow extraction), and thus, animals from different hunting grounds were wisely used to maximise the potential of specific habitats in the environment. This study is an additional testimony to the ingenuity of the cave inhabitants that allowed them to persistently use the cave for a prolonged period in a year.

Original languageEnglish
Article number205
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Keywords

  • Ageing
  • Dietary traits
  • Middle Pleistocene
  • Qesem Cave
  • Seasonality
  • Tooth mesowear
  • Tooth microwear
  • Ungulates

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