Paleoenvironments and climate at Nahal Me'arot (Mount Carmel, Israel) during the Middle and Late Pleistocene: The herpetofauna of Tabun Cave and el-Wad Terrace

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The Paleolithic record of the Levant encompasses several key changes in human population dynamics and human biological and cultural evolution. These processes are frequently linked to climatic shifts, but high-resolution and long-term paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic records often come from off-site sources, hindering the correlation with human developments observed in the archaeological sites. This paper aims to reconstruct the long-term paleoenvironmental and paleoclimatic records of the Middle and Late Pleistocene Nahal Me'arot, Mount Carmel, Israel, using the archaeological herpetofauna assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic (MP) of Tabun Cave (layers C and B; using 18 stratigraphically ordered beds in total) and the Early Natufian of el-Wad Terrace (EWT), and employing the habitat weighting and mutual climate range methods. To strengthen our control of the correlation between the observed variation and the changing environment we also add a modern sample from the same location. We provide a systematic description of the finds and employ taphonomic and taxonomic analyses, which enabled us to identify three major accumulation agents that differentially affected the various samples: raptor predation predominantly in Tabun C, natural entrapment and death in Tabun B, and human consumption in Natufian EWT. The studied Tabun sequence exhibits changes in temperature and humidity. These are more apparent in the lower part (Tabun C), where the driest spell of our sequence also occurred, than in its upper part (Tabun B), and potentially coincide with the succession of two different hominin populations in the site. The correlation with regional off-site records remains challenging. Yet, given the available dates for the layers immediately underlying our driest sample, this dry fluctuation can be cautiously correlated with one of the dry phases apparent in the isotope records at the end of MIS 6. In the Terminal Pleistocene, the Early Natufian EWT reconstruction shows a wetter and cooler climate than the present day, with favorable Eastern Mediterranean vegetation, possibly enabling the long-term sedentary habitation that is suggested for this phase. Finally, our results testify to the general resilience of amphibian and reptile communities through the sequence but also to the rising impact of human activities on the reptile community during the Natufian.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108060
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 1 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Herpetofauna
  • Middle East
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Natufian
  • Paleoclimate modeling
  • Pleistocene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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