Variations in lithic artefact density as a tool for better understanding Middle Palaeolithic human behaviour: The case of Nesher Ramla (Israel)

Laura Centi, Yossi Zaidner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variability in the composition of lithic assemblages stems from the combined action of different agents. In this study we used shifts in the relation between lithic artefact density and lithic technological organisation as a tool to better understand the underlying causes of lithic techno-typological variability throughout the archaeological sequence of Nesher Ramla (Israel). Nesher Ramla is a Middle Palaeolithic open-air site found in a karst sinkhole, where human occupation took place in situ. The upper part of the site's sequence (Units II-I, dated to Marine Isotope Stage 5), is characterised by sharp shifts in lithic artefact densities, concomitant with changes in the composition of the lithic assemblages. Using lithic artefact density as a proxy, we were able to partially dissect palimpsests at the site as well as isolate which components of the lithic assemblages are affected by the length of the site occupation and which are possibly the outcome of different activities performed on-site (i.e., the site function) or result from the stylistic preferences of the site inhabitants. We suggest that the role played by the site within past hunter-gatherers’ mobility systems changed from the occupation of Unit IIB-Lower, when it was possibly repeatedly used for hunting and processing animal resources, to Unit I, when it was only sporadically visited for more general purposes. Morphological changes in the karst sinkhole over time are suggested as the major causes of change in site use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-18
Number of pages15
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 1773/15 to Y.Z.) and by the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation . We would like to thank Francesco Valletta for his useful suggestions and for helping to prepare some of the figures of this paper. Special thanks to Professor Erella Hovers, that kindly agreed to proof-read the manuscript and provided useful advices in different stage of the manuscript preparation. We are also grateful to the Editor and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA


  • Lithic artefact density
  • Lithic technology
  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Mobility systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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