Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site – A mammoth skeleton at a rare and controversial Plio-Pleistocene site along the mammal migration route out of Africa

Rivka Rabinovich, Gadi Herzlinger, Rani Calvo, Florent Rivals, Steffen Mischke, Gali Beiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Early sites along the Dead Sea Transform (southern Levant), among them the Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site, are key points in understanding hominin and mammal migration out of Africa and into Eurasia. The late Prof. Tchernov had begun an intensive campaign to expose the faunal remains at the site, but unfortunately was unable to conclude his study. Based on interim reports and geomorphological descriptions, we were aware of numerous elephant remains found and left in situ. The Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site is a controversial site. There are those who see it as the earliest Pleistocene hominin site in the area, while others consider it a paleontological site without any hominin involvement. We returned to the site to try to resolve this controversy. In a systematic excavation, we succeeded in exposing the previously uncovered elements, exposed more material and currently better understand the deposition sequence. However, the task was very challenging, since the skeletal elements were very fragile and required careful exposure and conservation, both in situ and in the laboratory, before they could be studied. A series of elements were found partially superimposed. Several elements of the skull, an almost complete tusk, vertebrae, ribs, a scapula and limb bones were found. Mammoth diagnostic traits were identified in the teeth and tusk. However, very few skeletons of early mammoths are known from the region. Have we exposed the most complete Mammuthus rumanus skeleton? Tooth microwear indicates leaf-browsing dietary traits, similar to that of other M. rumanus of this period. In addition, the recent excavations have revealed the potential of the site in understanding the evolution and dispersal of proboscidean species out of Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene, adding another focal point to the southern Levant along this route.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105885
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Dispersal
  • Evolution
  • Mammoth
  • Plio-pleistocene
  • Southern levant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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