Early Pleistocene hominins outside of Africa: Recent excavations at Bizat Ruhama, Israel

Y. Zaidner, Reuven Yeshurun, Carolina Mallol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The earliest evidence of hominin presence outside of Africa is scarce. Although it is clear that hominins reached Eurasia at the beginning of the Early Pleistocene, equipped with an Oldowan-like tool-kit, the Eurasian Early Pleistocene archaeological record is actually limited to a few occurrences, many of which are not in primary archaeological context. Consequently, much of the paleoecological and behavioral aspects of the earliest occupation of Eurasia remain poorly understood. Here we report on the renewed excavations at the Early Pleistocene core-and-flake site of Bizat Ruhama, Israel, located on the southern coastal plain of the southern Levant. The site yielded several lithic and faunal assemblages in primary anthropogenic context and is dated to the Matuyama paleomagnetic chron (1.96–0.78 Ma), based on paleomagnetic and faunal evidence. The results of the current study at Bizat Ruhama reveal a spatially extensive single-horizon open-air occurrence
with indications for fast burial and good preservation of the original site features. The Bizat Ruhama industry shows no Acheulian affinities and exhibits technological simplicity. However, it demonstrates the hominin ability
to adapt to unfavorable raw material conditions. Technological simplicity and absence of bifacial and discoidal knapping suggest that the site represents Mode 1 dispersal out of Africa. The faunal assemblage of the site was
accumulated primarily by anthropogenic agents, preserving signs of hominin butchery. Geological and faunal evidence indicate open homogeneous semi-arid environment with no evidence for river or lake in the immediate
surroundings, thereby broadening our knowledge of the range of habitats exploited by early hominins and their adaptive skills. Altogether, the results point to short-term hominin occupation and suggest that animal carcasses
were processed in place, along with knapping activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162–195
StatePublished - 2010


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