The Late Middle Pleistocene mammalian fauna of Oumm Qatafa Cave, Judean Desert: taxonomy, taphonomy and palaeoenvironment

Nimrod Marom, Ignacio A. Lazagabaster, Roee Shafir, Filipe Natalio, Vera Eisenmann, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Middle Pleistocene archaeological record of the southern Levant has proven key to understanding human evolution and intercontinental faunal biogeography. Knowledge of archaeological sites of that period in the southern Levant is biased, with most Middle Pleistocene localities in the Mediterranean areas in the north, despite the mosaic of environments that mark the entire region. A key Middle Pleistocene location in the Judean Desert – on the eastern margin of the Mediterranean zone – is the site of Oumm Qatafa, excavated in the early 1900s, which yielded a faunal collection spanning an estimated time period of 500–200 kya. Here, we present a revised taxonomy of the macromammalian fauna from the site, discuss the palaeoenvironmental implications of this assemblage, and relate the finds to other Pleistocene sites from the Levant. These data enable a more precise palaeoenvironmental reconstruction which attests to an open landscape, but with the addition of a mesic Mediterranean component close by. In addition, detailed taphonomic observations on butchery marks and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy analysis of burnt bone link the fauna for the first time to anthropogenic activities in the cave.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-638
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Special thanks to Myriam Boudadi‐Maligne for information relating to the identification; to Aya Marck for her help in drawing Fig. 2 ; to Meir Orbach for fruitful discussion on hyaenas and canids; to Aharon Horowitz for permission to publish his pollen data from Oumm Qatafa; and to Shiri Ellenbogen of the CT unit in Tel Aviv University. This research was supported by the European Research Council (Grant #802752, DEADSEA_ECO). IAL acknowledges the Humboldt Foundation and the University of Haifa for supporting his postdoctoral work (Figs. 14 and 15 ). Canis

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors Journal of Quaternary Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • archaeology
  • early fire
  • fauna
  • Levant
  • palaeontology
  • Quaternary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Paleontology


Dive into the research topics of 'The Late Middle Pleistocene mammalian fauna of Oumm Qatafa Cave, Judean Desert: taxonomy, taphonomy and palaeoenvironment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this