A Late Pleistocene Eastern Mediterranean palaeoclimate record based on stable carbon isotopes (Δ13C) of archaeological charcoal: New data from the Epipalaeolithic sequence of Ein Qashish South, Israel

Chiara Belli, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Valentina Caracuta, Dani Nadel, Reuven Yeshurun, Lior Regev, Elisabetta Boaretto, Alla Yaroshevich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Levantine Epipaleolithic period witnessed remarkable cultural processes, culminating with the rise of sedentary hamlets in the Early Natufian. The role of terminal Pleistocene climate changes as a catalyst for these societal shifts has been debated, suffering from a lack of well-dated and localized proxies associated with the human landscape. The charcoal assemblage from the Epipalaeolithic sequence (Kebaran, Geometric Kebaran and Natufian; ca. 25,000–12,700 cal. BP) at Ein Qashish South (EQS, Israel) indicates an Eastern Mediterranean vegetation and the common use of oak (both evergreen and deciduous/semi-deciduous) and almond throughout the sequence. A precipitation curve is presented for the region under study based on stable carbon isotope (δ13C) measurements of identified and dated charcoals from the EQS sequence and from the Natufian el-Wad Terrace (EWT), Mount Carmel, and interpreted in relation to precipitation, the primary environmental factor influencing plant δ13C absorption in the region under study. The resulting proxy covers a period spanning the Last Glacial Maximum and the end of the Pleistocene in the southern Levant. This is the first time a charcoal-based sequence from a high-resolution archaeological record encompasses the precipitation patterns of the entire Epipalaeolithic sequence in the southern Levant. To assess the viability of δ13C analysis of southern Levantine oak (Tabor oak, Quercus ithaburensis, and evergreen oak, Quercus calliprinos) for palaeoclimate reconstruction, isotope measurements were performed on three current oak tree growth rings sampled from a sequence characterised by documented varying annual precipitation. Our experimental results suggest that almond is more susceptible to climate change and, therefore, more suitable as a palaeoclimatic proxy. Δ13C records from almond and oak suggest a more humid climate than today throughout the Epipalaeolithic sequence, with the most humid peak in the Early Natufian. The overall productive environments, particularly in the time when sedentarisation is most apparent, may have contributed to the observed cultural shifts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104597
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume57
StatePublished - Sep 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Epipalaeolithic
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Quercus calliprinos
  • Quercus ithaburensis
  • Southern Levant
  • Stable Carbon Isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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