A campsite on the open plain: Zooarchaeology of Unit III at the Middle Paleolithic site of Nesher Ramla, Israel

Kathryn M. Crater Gershtein, Yossi Zaidner, Reuven Yeshurun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Levantine Middle Paleolithic period displays significant archaeological variability across a series of cave and open-air sites encompassing ca. 200,000 years. Faunal remains are an important source of knowledge regarding hunting and mobility patterns but have mostly been studied in the deep stratigraphic sequences of the Levantine caves. This research addresses questions of hunting, carcass transport, butchery patterns and use of space as they occurred at the Middle Paleolithic open-air site of Nesher Ramla in central Israel. The site is an 8-m-thick sequence within a karst sinkhole, dating to MIS6/5. We conducted the first detailed taphonomic and zooarchaeological study at the site, focusing on a sample from Unit III, which is a thin layer with dense lithics and faunal remains, combustion features, manuports, and ochre. Our results reveal an anthropogenic accumulation that is dominated by aurochs, equid, and tortoise remains. The large ungulates’ (aurochs) skeletal-element representation is biased in favor of meat- and fat-rich body parts, coupled with abundant evidence of dismemberment, filleting and marrow extraction. These parts were imported to the sinkhole for processing and consumption. Tortoises are abundant. The lithic assemblages exhibit high frequency of retouched tools and low typological diversity and are characterized by high visibility of personal toolkit components. Coupled with use-wear analysis that suggests a low spectrum of activities and massive occurrence of hammerstones, anvils and manuports, these characteristics indicate that the Unit III occupation represents an intensive camp centering on aurochs processing and butchering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Guy Bar-Oz, Dani Nadel, Iris Groman-Yaroslavski, Marion Prévost and Rivka Rabinovich for their help, advice and support during this research. We thank the reviewers, John D. Speth and Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo, for their very valuable comments on a previous draft. This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1258/17 to R. Y.; Grant No. 1773/15 to Y. Z.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA


  • Hunting
  • Levant
  • Middle paleolithic
  • Site function
  • Skeletal-element representation
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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