Palynological investigations at the Middle Palaeolithic site of Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet, Israel

Sophia Aharonovich, Gonen Sharon, Mina Weinstein-Evron

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A detailed palynological sequence of the late Middle Palaeolithic (MP) open-air site Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet (NMO), northern Jordan Rift Valley, Israel, dated to ca. 65-51 ka, constitutes a rare case of a south Levantine archaeo-palynological study for this period. The sequence is characterized by relatively high Arboreal Pollen (AP) ratios, comparable to humid fluctuations in the near-by Hula cores. The pollen spectra represent a Mediterranean maquis with Quercus calliprinos (Palestine oak), Quercus ithaburensis (Mt. Tabor oak), Pistacia sp. (pistachio), Pinus halepensis (Aleppo pine), and Olea europaea (wild olive) as the main tree taxa. Among the Non Arboreal Pollen (NAP) the dominant families are Poaceae (true grasses family), Chenopodiaceae (goosefoot family), Apiaceae (parsley family) and Liliaceae (lily family), and the genera Artemisia (sagebrush) and Centaurea (centaury). Two humid fluctuations with higher AP ratios, separated by a somewhat drier one, seem to emerge. The earlier humid fluctuation represents a cooler climate as indicated by the occurrence of Cedrus libani (Lebanon cedar), Abies (fir), and Alnus (alder) pollen. Altogether, the palynological data suggest wet habitats near the site in a rather humid period, when a Mediterranean maquis was widespread on the mountains surrounding the valley, with some minor fluctuations in humidity and temperature. Results of the current study fit those of a previous study of the Hula Basin for roughly the same time period. They further provide valuable details and a unique palaeoenvironmental reconstruction specifically related to the occupation period of NMO. Given the postulated short-term nature of its human occupation, the palynological sequence may represent a longer period of accumulation, extending before, during and after human presence at the site, with short human habitation spell/s incorporated within the sequence. The unique preservation of rich and diverse micro-botanical (pollen) and macro-botanical (wood, bark, seeds and fruits) assemblages at the site further contributes to the comprehensive reconstruction of a variety of biotopes exploited by the inhabitants of the site, both in the vicinity and further afield.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-166
Number of pages18
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 8 May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research is based on an MA thesis (by S.A.) conducted at the Department of Archaeology, The University of Haifa. The NMO palynological study is supported by the Irene Levi-Sala Care Archaeological Foundation . The NMO excavation project is supported primarily by the Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 645/09 , titled: Behavior, Subsistence Strategies and Paleo-environmental Background of Middle Paleolithic Hominids in the Northern Dead Sea Rift). In addition, the project is supported by the following granting agencies: The Leakey Foundation , The Wenner-Gren Foundation , National Geographic and the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation . We wish to thank Ms. Silvia Chaim for her valuable help in the identification of the pollen grains and her constant support, Dr. Yoel Melamed, Bar Ilan University, for shearing information regarding the NMO fruits, seeds and additional floral remains, and Prof. Ella Werker, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for wood identification. Thanks are due to Prof. Daniel Kaufman for his useful remarks. Thanks are also due to the reviewers for their useful remarks.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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