Weasels (Mustela nivalis) from the Hellenistic well at Shaar-Ha'amaqim

G. Bar-Oz, A. Segal, T. Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three complete skulls and a humerus bone of Mustela nivalis were found in an underground water cistern deposit of the Roman-Hellenistic castle at Shaar-Ha'amaqim (250-150 BCE). These new finds indicate that M. nivalis survived in Israel at least until the second century BCE. The weasel does not exist in Israel at present, and the disjunct Egyptian population is generally considered a post-glacial relict of the Pleistocene Mediterranean population. Previous fossil finds of weasels from Israel were related to the Natufian (ca. 9,000 BCE), Chalcolithic (ca. 4,000-3,300 BCE), Early Bronze (ca. 3,000 BCE), and Iron Age (ca. 1,200 BCE) cultures. Cranial measurements of the Shaar-Ha'amaqim specimens suggest that their size (40.4 ± 2.3 mm; n = 3) were within the range found in weasels of the Nile Delta (Mustela nivalis subpalmata). Weasels are characterized by extreme sexual size dimorphism and the specimens from Shaar-Ha'amaqim fall within the range size of recent females from Egypt. Thus, these fossil specimens may either be females of a large race or indicative of a later temporal size decrease in the local Israeli population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157
Number of pages1
JournalIsrael Journal of Zoology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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