The Avifauna of the Early Epipalaeolithic site of Ohalo II (19 400 years BP), Israel: Species Diversity, Habitat and Seasonality

Tal Simmons, Dani Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The early Epipalaeolithic site of Ohalo II offers evidence that, some 19 400 years BP, prehistoric people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee exploited birds in large numbers as a food source and for the decorative value of their feathers and claws. The superb preservation of even the most delicate fauna at this site enabled an extensive analysis of a type rarely possible with avian remains of this antiquity. Certain types of birds were obtained preferentially, although a broad variety of avifauna was taken; preliminary analysis of some 488 identifiable bone fragments indicates that 16 families, 40 genera, and 68 different species are represented in the archaeological assemblage. As might be expected from a lakeshore site, the remains of waterfowl abound. The most diversity within a family occurs among the Anatidae, with ten genera and 22 species; however, the most frequently occuring birds are those of the family Podicipadae, or grebes, which account for approximately one-third of the assemblage. Species common to a variety of other environments are found in significant numbers as well (namely the Accipitridae). Large birds dominate the assemblage and the number of species represented by each family is disproportionate to the numerical frequency of those species at present, with passeriformes relatively poorly represented. The regular migration pattern of birds today broadly indicates that the site was occupied during the months of September-November and February-April. There are, however, a number of species that appear in this region today only from December through to March, which might indicate a longer, semi-permanent encampment. A biseasonal, or perhaps extended winter occupation pattern at Ohalo II seems to support a shift away from the generalized foraging economy of hunter-gatherers and to indicate the onset of planned intensive collecting, thus foreshadowing the initial steps toward sedentism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-96
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Archaeology
  • Birds
  • Epipalaeolithic
  • Israel
  • Seasonality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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