Middle to Late Epipaleolithic hunter-gatherer encampments at the Ashalim site, on a linear dune-like morphology, along dunefield margin water bodies

Jacob Vardi, Ofer Marder, Revital Bookman, David E. Friesem, I. Groman-Yeroslavski, Lotan Edeltin, Naomi Porat, Elisabetta Boaretto, Joel Roskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study presents distinct and small task-specific sites associated with the Middle to Late Epipalaeolithic period exposed during a salvage project at the site of Ashalim at the fringe of the northwestern Negev desert dunefield (Israel). Six areas spanning the Geometric-Kebaran to Harifian periods were systematically collected upon a unique 4 m high and 100 m wide linear dune-like morphology. This morphology was a vegetated linear dune that blocked the underlying drainage system and led to the development of standing bodies of water which, together with the exposed wet bottom provided fauna and flora resources during the winter and spring. The relatively large number of sickle blades and lunates uncovered during the excavations suggest cereal consumption combined with hunting activities. Ten optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) measurements conducted for the dune-like morphology indicate that the occupations of the site post-date ∼15.5 ± 3.1 ka BP, while bodies of water were present intermittently until at least ∼11 ka BP, possibly even after the Harifian occupation. Two radiocarbon dates, taken from ostrich eggshell fragments that were found upon the flat surface of the dune-like morphology, further support this time range. The current study demonstrates how aeolian-fluvial interactions, and not necessarily a wetter climate, are important for forming conditions conducive for occupation by prehistoric groups in arid zones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-205
Number of pages19
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 10 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was part of an Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) salvage excavation (A-7124) led by Jacob Vardi in June 2014. The authors would like to thank Nimer Taha (Geo-Marine Sciences Sedimentological Laboratory, University of Haifa) for his assistance with the sedimentological analyses; Noga Yasolevich (University of Haifa) and Michal Birkenfeld (IAA) for their help with the graphics; Mendel Kahn (IAA) for RTK measurements; Alla Yaroshevitz and Martin Pasternak (field supervisors) and Yaakov Eitan for editing the text. Ezra Zilberman (GSI) is thanked for fruitful discussion. Shortly after the completion of the field work for this study, the Ashalim area and its environs were mechanically flattened as part of the construction of a solar energy photovoltaic farm.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA


  • Epipaleolithic
  • Harifian
  • Hunter-gatherers
  • Natufian
  • Northwestern Negev dunefield
  • Standing water bodies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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