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Elephants at the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian open-air site of Revadim Quarry, Israel


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Lower Paleolithic faunal and lithic assemblages serve as a major source of information on the behavior and capabilities of Early- and Middle Pleistocene hominins. The multi-layered Late Acheulian site of Revadim Quarry provides a rare opportunity to study hominin–elephant interactions during the Late Lower Paleolithic period in the Levant. A large proportion of this open-air site was excavated (ca. 250 m2) and yielded a wealth of lithic and faunal remains. In this paper the proboscideans from Revadim are presented for the first time within the broader geomorphological, stratigraphic and archaeological context in order to allow a better understanding of elephants within the Acheulian in the southern Levant. The unprecedented quantity of elephant remains at the site is accompanied by large and rich lithic assemblages. Of special interest are several elephant bones with cut marks, and the earliest appearance in the southern Levant of bones that seem to have been shaped to resemble tools. The site bears testimony to complex exploitation of proboscideans.
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Elephants at the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian open-air site of Revadim Quarry,
R. Rabinovich
, O. Ackermann
, E. Aladjem
, R. Barkai
, R. Biton
, I. Milevski
, N. Solodenko
O. Marder
Institute of Earth Sciences, National Natural History Collections, The Institute of Archaeology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
The Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel
Israel Antiquities Authority, P. O. Box 586, Jerusalem 91004, Israel
The Jacob M. Alkow Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures, Tel Aviv University, P.O.B. 39040, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel
article info
Article history:
Available online 11 May 2012
Lower Paleolithic faunal and lithic assemblages serve as a major source of information on the behavior
and capabilities of Early- and Middle Pleistocene hominins. The multi-layered Late Acheulian site of
Revadim Quarry provides a rare opportunity to study hominineelephant interactions during the Late
Lower Paleolithic period in the Levant. A large proportion of this open-air site was excavated (ca. 250 m
and yielded a wealth of lithic and faunal remains. In this paper the proboscideans from Revadim are
presented for the rst time within the broader geomorphological, stratigraphic and archaeological
context in order to allow a better understanding of elephants within the Acheulian in the southern
Levant. The unprecedented quantity of elephant remains at the site is accompanied by large and rich
lithic assemblages. Of special interest are several elephant bones with cut marks, and the earliest
appearance in the southern Levant of bones that seem to have been shaped to resemble tools. The site
bears testimony to complex exploitation of proboscideans.
Ó2012 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Only rarely is it possible to investigate the association between
elephants and hominins in the southern Levant. The Acheulian
open-air site of Revadim Quarry (Israel, hereafter Revadim) in
which teeth and bones of straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon
antiquus) were uncovered in spatial association with numerous
int artifacts (Marder et al., 1999,2008,2011;Rabinovich et al.,
2005) is one of the few exceptions. Moreover, this is the rst site
in the southern Levant where evidence for the utilization of animal
bones, including elephant skeletal elements, as raw material for
tools was detected. This paper aims to decipher the role of
elephants at the site of Revadim by combining the faunal and
archaeological data, with preliminary spatial distribution analysis.
The presence of proboscideans in Pleistocene archaeological
sites has been the subject of numerous studies worldwide, and
their relationship with hominins is one of the focal points in Middle
Pleistocene research (e.g. Boschian and Saccà, 2010 with references
therein; Anzidei et al., 2011). Sites vary from localities where
a single carcasses occurs with a few stone artifacts, to dense clusters
of animals and stone tools within multi-stratigraphic sites (e.g.
Clark and Haynes, 1970;Beauval et al., 1998;Chazan and Horwitz,
2006;Yravedra et al., 2010). Interpretations of the spatial associa-
tion between elephant remains and chipped stone tools encompass
a range of possibilities, from hunting (Goren-Inbar et al., 1994;
Surovell et al., 2005), to scavenging (Berthelet, 2001;Piperno and
Tagliacozzo, 2001). In any case, there is indisputable evidence for
butchery of proboscidean species in various sites (Villa et al., 2005;
Wenban-Smith et al., 2006;Yravedra et al., 2010 and see references
Their body size, morphology, feeding habits, population struc-
ture and home range make proboscidean species a distinct and
inuential factor within the environment, on a grander scale than
any other known terrestrial animal (Haynes, 2001,2006;Sukumar,
2003;Christiansen, 2004,2011). The distinctive imprint of extant
elephant species on the environment is a focal issue in current
conservation programs (Sukumar, 2003). Fossil species probably
had the same impact within their ecosystems (Christiansen, 2004;
see detailed discussion and examples in; Haynes, 2001,2006,2011).
The anatomical characteristics of the proboscideans inuence
the survival of their bones, resulting in a clear imprint on the fossil
record (Shoshani, 1996;Christiansen, 2004;Shoshani and Tassy,
*Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (R. Rabinovich).
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Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197
2005). The skull is bulky but has inner fragile parts. The teeth are
very massive but their components (cement, enamel and dentine)
tend to break along the plates, leaving in the sediment prolic
quantities of cuboid fragments of dentine, and pieces of thick
enamel. The tusk, if not well preserved, tends to deteriorate into
tiny pieces. The long bones have no marrow cavities, but rather the
interior is lled with cancellous bone through which the marrow is
disseminated (Shoshani and Eisenberg, 1982), and this bone may
also break into small pieces. The epiphyses, particularly those of
long bones and vertebrae do not completely fuse until about 25e30
years of age (Shoshani and Eisenberg, 1982). In unfavorable pres-
ervation conditions, these characteristics may cause taphonomic
bias, which will affect any attempt to interpret their association
with hominin habitats (Mussi and Villa, 2008).
In an attempt to comprehend the association between probos-
cideans and hominins, this paper will consider the anatomical
characteristics and the life history of extant proboscidean species in
conjunction with the site-specic formation processes at Revadim
(e.g. bone preservation, paleolandscape).
1.1. Proboscideans in the Levant
Proboscidean species occur in the southern Levant from the
Miocene until the Middle Pleistocene (Tchernov and Shoshani,
1996;Horowitz, 2002). In terms of hominin culture, the probosci-
deans encompass the Lower Paleolithic (ca. 1.5 Mae350 ka). This
situation is very different from that in Eurasia where they continue
to appear in the Paleolithic archaeological record until much later
(MIS 3 and perhaps beyond; Gaudzinski et al., 2005). In the
southern Levant, proboscideans do not dominate the faunal record
in any of the known sites (but see Ben-Dor et al., 2011 for another
perspective); not a single complete carcass was uncovered and
until recently there had been no evidence of usage of proboscidean
teeth, tusk or bone as raw material (but see Stekelis, 1960,1967).
Several species have been identied in the Levant (Table 1;
Fig. 1). The co-occurrence of two genera on several sites is worth
noting. Stegodon species are contemporaneous with Mammuthus at
the site of Ubeidiya, with Elephas at the site of Evron Quarry, and
with Palaeoloxodon at the site of Gesher Benot Yaaqov. Paleoeco-
logical models of dispersal were applied to explain the distribution
of Mammuthus and Palaeoloxodon (Lister, 2004), pointing towards
a late entrance of P. antiquus when the Mammuthus trogontherii was
rmly established.
Remains of P. antiquus, the straight-tusked elephant, are the most
numerous and varied in the region, and were found in two Acheulian
open-air sites besides Revadim: at Gesher Benot Yaaqov (e.g.
Rabinovich and Biton, 2011;Rabinovich et al., 2012), and at Holon
(Davies and Lister, 2007). As previously mentioned, there is no
evidence of proboscideans in any clear Acheulo-Yabrudian context or in
any early Middle Paleolithic one in the southern Levant (e.g. Bar-Yosef
and Belmaker, 2011;Ben-Dor et al., 2011;Rabinovich et al., 2012).
2. The site of Revadim
The site of Revadim is located on the southern Coastal Plain, 40 km
southeast of Tel Aviv (Fig.1). It is situated on a hillock at an elevation of
71e73 m above sea level (Fig. 2), 300 m north of the conuence of two
tributaries of the main stream in the area, Nahal Timna. This stream is
itself a small wadi in the drainage basin of Nahal Soreq (Gvirtzman
et al., 1999,Fig. 1). The area is characterized by undulating topog-
raphy sloping northward towards the conuence of the two tributaries.
Revadim is located within the Mediterranean vegetation belt. The site
excavations were conducted during 1996e2004 on behalf of the Israel
Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Marder
et al., 1999,2011).
Five areas labeled A to E, and several trenches were excavated
(Marder et al., 1999; and Fig. 2). The central part of the site
collapsed during the winters, and nds were collected from the
collapsed sections, a large number from Area B, and less from Areas
A and C. Area E is an isolated hill where remains of broken bones
were exposed in situ. This area was part of the Paleolithic occupa-
tion, but was scooped out during the modern quarrying activity.
Seven archaeological layers were exposed, two in Areas B (B1 and
B2) and ve in Area C (C1 to C5). Several test trenches were dug,
among them trenches T-12 and T-23 that were excavated in order
to establish the stratigraphic correlation of the areas of excavation.
Faunal remains, and especially proboscideans, were found in all
the excavated areas. However, this paper concentrates mainly on
Area B, where most of the elephant bones were found in dense
archaeological horizons. Although some of the archaeological
horizons of Area C (mainly Layers C2 and C3) have higher artifacts
density than Area B (Malinsky-Buller, 2008;Solodenko, 2010;
Malinsky-Buller et al., 2011b), they are poor in elephant remains
and most of the bones that were retrieved are very fragmented.
2.1. Geological and sedimentological setting
The geological sequence of Revadim as published in 1999
(Gvirtzman et al., 1999;Wieder and Gvirtzman, 1999), comprises an
Table 1
Pleistocene proboscideans from the Levant (see location of sites in Fig. 1).
Species Sites References Notes
Mammuthus meridionalis Ubeidiya, Jordan Valley, Israel Beden, 1986
Mammuthus trogontherii or
M. trogontherii-like
Latamme, Orontes Valley, Syria Lister, 2004 Previously dened by
Hooijer (1961) and Guérin
et al., 1993
Palaeoloxodon antiquus Gesher Benot Yaaqov, Jordan Valley, Israel Goren-Inbar et al., 1994;Shoshani
et al., 2001;Rabinovich and Biton, 2011
Revadim, Central Coastal Plain, Israel Marder et al., 1999;Rabinovich et al.,
2005; this article
Holon, Central Coastal Plain, Israel Davies and Lister, 2007
Stegodon cf. trigonocephalus Latamne Guérin et al., 1993
Stegodon sp. Evron Quarry, Western Galilee, Israel Tchernov et al., 1994
Gesher Benot Yaaqov Hooijer, 1960
Elephas sp. Evron Quarry Tchernov et al., 1994
Oumm Zinat (Evron), Western Galilee, Israel Horwitz and Tchernov, 1989
Tabun E/F, Western Galilee, Israel Bate, 1937
Unidentied species Nahal Ayalon, Central Coastal Plain, Israel Only tusks
Beeri, Central Coastal Plain, Israel Bruins, 1976, p. 130 Only tusks
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197184
average of 21 m of alternating paleosols divided into several units.
Reassessment of these units was published by Marder et al. (2011;
and Table 2). In general, the paleosurface (i.e. the original topog-
raphy of the site) is characterized by undulating topography,
a combination of rills and gullies. The nature of the sediments at the
contact between Units 2 and 3 varies laterally. This phenomenon is
most pronounced in the northeastern part of the site (Area B; Fig. 2)
where the erosion deepens and truncates the Hamra paleosol to
expose the soils parent material (the sand of Unit 4). As a result,
numerous rills and gullies formed in the soft sand sediment. In
contrast, in the southwestern part of the site (Area C; Fig. 2) erosion
is limited, and only rills and shallow gullies were formed.
2.2. Dating
Dating of the Revadim sequence is in progress, and only partial
information is available. Paleomagnetic analyses of the geological
sequence show normal polarity, indicating that the whole sequence
is younger than 780 ka (Marder et al., 2011). Preliminary dating of
carbonate coating of int artifacts yielded dates between 300 ka
and 500 ka and possibly older, establishing the terminus ante quem
estimate for human occupation of the site. Given the characteristics
of the lithic assemblages, the entire anthropogenic accumulation is
ascribed to the Late Acheulian techno-complex. Within this period,
retouched int tools and handaxes in association with elephant
bones are particularly worth noting (Marder et al., 2006;
Solodenko, 2010;Malinsky-Buller et al., 2011a,b).
2.3. Stratigraphy and archaeological remains of Area B
Area B was divided into three sub-areas: North, Center and
South (Fig. 3). Two distinct archaeological occupation layers were
dened, Layer B1 at the top, and B2 below it (Fig. 4). Both are
located within geological Unit 2, the Quartzic Gray Brown Paleosol,
and within the interface between Unit 2 and Unit 3. Occasionally,in
places where the Hamra/Husmas was eroded, nds were in contact
with the loose dune sand (Unit 4). Layer B1 appears in isolated
patches, and is not as dense in nds as the continuous horizons of
Layer B2 (Table 3). There were almost no sedimentological differ-
ences between these two layers. Furthermore, in each sub area
there were specic archaeological units around concentrations of
animal bones and int items located in discrete topographical
features. The main localities in which elephant bones were found
are presented in Table 3 and illustrated in Figs. 3 and 10.
Within this setting two types of depressions were discerned.
The rst type is small rills, which are round or elliptical shallow
depressions (20e40 cm wide, 10e20 cm deep) or alternatively
deeper (30e40 cm), irregular pipe-shape rills (e.g. Locality 2). The
second type is depressions of larger diameter, whose width is
70e100 cm and their depth 30e50 cm (e.g. Locality 3; Marder et al.,
1999,Fig. 5). Field observations and sediment granulometric
measurements of the ne material indicate that the clay content
within the depressions is higher than in their surroundings. In their
bases, carbonate crust covers small and large unmodied pebbles
and numerous int artifacts that were discovered next to and above
the bones. All the evidence supports water accumulation in the
depressions, similar to local ponding. It seems that at least some
(e.g. Localities 2 and 3) functioned as sediment traps during
episodes of uvial events. A similar phenomenon occurs within the
Mediterranean hydrological regime where clusters of gravel and
sediments are trapped inside river beds (e.g. Wittenberg, 2002:
26e27: Fig. 1).
2.4. Preliminary GIS analysis of remains from Area B
In order to reconstruct the spatial distribution of the artifacts
and animal bones in relation to the paleosurface, GIS software
methods and models were used. A paleosurface model of Revadim
had already been constructed using IDW interpolation methods
(Marder et al., 2011,Fig. 8). In addition, a TIN method (triangulated
irregular network; Bonino and Rousseau, 2005, 256; Carrara et al.,
1997,470e471) was used in order to produce a more accurate
micro-topography of Area B. At this preliminary stage of the anal-
ysis a third of the debitage items as well as all the large bones have
already been digitally plotted in three coordinates (Figs. 3 and 10).
3. The faunal remains
Thousands of animal bones were uncovered at Revadim, from
the large-scale excavations and from the collapsed area at the
center of the site. Most could not be identied, but after detailed
laboratory treatment, which included sorting, cleaning and resto-
ration, a small fraction was identied to species level. For instance
in the eastern part of Area C, more than 5000 bone splinters were
recorded from an area of 11 m
. Most of them were smaller than
one cm and only 3% could be identied.
3.1. Methods
3.1.1. Identication
For the identication of the Revadim fauna, the following bone
assemblages from prehistoric sites and recent mammalian collec-
tions were used: the National Natural History Collections of the
Fig. 1. Location map of Early Middle Pleistocene (Acheulian) sites from the southern
Levant mentioned in the text.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 18 5
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem (HUJ); The Zoological
Collections, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv (TAU); Museo Nacional de
Ciencias Naturales, Madrid (MNCN; Paleontology, Zoology), the
Natural History Museum, London (NHM; Paleontology, Zoology);
and the Musée National dHistoire Naturelle, Paris (MNHN). For
detailed description of the methods of identication see Rabinovich
et al., 2012.
3.1.2. Taphonomy
For the taphonomic studies, the following sources served as
comparative material: butchery experiments; rodents, porcupine
and carnivores experimental collections; porcupine lairs; and
hyena dens. All of these are part of the National Natural History
Collections of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Published
criteria were also used (for details see Rabinovich et al., 2012,
Table 2
Geological and sedimentological units at Revadim Quarry.
Geological units Depth Denition Description
1 0.3e0.4 m Dark Brown Grumusol (Vertisol) Brown clayey to sandy clay with a compound
prismatic structure, breaking into smaller cubic
peds and calcic horizons. Soil slickensides.
2 2.00e2.50 m Quartzic Gray Brown Paleosol Loamy sand to sandy loam paleosol, abundant
carbonate nodules. Mixture with the underlying
Unit 3 at the bottom.
3 ca. 2.00 m Red Paleosol eHamra and Husmas Massive Red sandy clay loamy soil to sandy loam.
Elongated whole and fragmented carbonate nodules
and calcied roots in the upper part.
4e6 ca. 16.00 m Loose dune sand and Hamra/Husmas Alternate layers of yellowish white, loose, medium to
coarse-grained sand and Hamra/Husmas.
Fig. 2. Revadim Quarrydareas of excavation.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197186
17e19). Each bone was examined under a stereo light microscope
with a magnication of 10 40. Selected elements were examined
with an analytical Quanta 200 Environmental Scanning Electron
Microscope (ESEM; FEI Company) at the ESEM Center for Nano-
science and Nanotechnology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Surface modications (striations, cut marks, etc.) were regis-
tered for each bone, and their exact anatomical position recorded in
detail (Rabinovich et al., 2012). The records were augmented by
observations specic to elephant bones, adopted from Boschian
and Saccà (2010). These include scalar breaks, sediment inclusion,
sediment coverage and elongated split marks.
All the bones were examined under the microscope to identify
surface modications and determine their state of weathering.
However, only bones that were identied to the species level will
be considered here. Many could not be dened beyond body-size
group, and there are numerous thick chunks of bones, with
eroded surfaces, and they no longer retain any identiable surface.
These probably belong to the largest animal represented at the site,
the elephant.
3.1.3. Preservation
Once exposed, most of the bones started to crack. Diluted polyvinyl
acetate adhesive was repeatedly applied to the surface, to consolidate
the fragments before excavation,and strips of gauze were adhered over
the whole bone when it proved to be too fragmentary to retain its
shape. Thorough cleaning at the laboratory was necessary in order to
allow microscopic observations of the bone surfaces, since many of the
bones were encrusted by sediment. Cleaning often necessitated the use
of diluted acetic acid, as the crust was too hard to remove by
mechanical means without risking damage to the bone surface.
The state of preservation of the bones varied. The following
states probably form a continuum:
Fig. 3. GIS plan of Area B localities, and topographic reconstruction with spatial distribution of the nds.
Fig. 4. Stratigraphic section of Area B showing the archaeological Layers B1 and B2 within Unit 2 and their contact with Unit 3. Squares CE-CG 65, looking south.B¼Bone,
FL ¼Flake, Bf ¼Biface.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 18 7
Table 3
Main localities at Revadim Quarry Area B, by layers and sub-areas.
Localities Excavated area General description Number
of lithics
Density of
per m
Elephant remains
(and other identiable faunal remains)
B1 Unit 2 Ca. 72 m
; thickness 0.1e0.3 m. Isolated patches of bones and
lithic artifacts.
5707 612
South Unit 2 25 Less than 1 m
; thickness 0.2 m. Isolated locus. 137 Tusk fragment; root of a tooth.
B2 Interface
Units 2/3
73 m
; thickness 0.1e0.45 m. Concentrations of lithics and
animal bones; dense
clusters can be discerned.
14,400 941
Center Interface
Units 2/3
31 Only partially exposed in a short
salvage excavation conducted in
order to recover an elephant scapula.
Flint artifacts and pebbles around
a slightly inclined scapula; A
handaxe in vertical position
at the distal part.
A few Scapula with cut marks and
striations; tooth fragment.
21 Area of 13 m
; thickness 0.05e0.28 m Fast palimpsest; discrete activity
area with high
percentage of cores.
984 547 Two elephant ribs; one unfused;
vertebrae plate; seven teeth. One of
the ribs, encrusted with sediment,
was broken in the past and the two
pieces conjoin. The other rib is an
almost complete left rib, cracked, with
animal scratches on its outer surface
and cut marks along its edge.
Other: eroded ulna shaft of Dama;
Equus tooth.
South Interface
Units 2/3
20 6 m
; thickness 0.1e0.15 m. Fast palimpsest; a knapping
post where handaxes
re-sharpening took place.
3572 4463 Six teeth fragments and one distal end
of tusk. The tusk is of a young elephant.
Other: Bos tibia shaft and a radius shaft
of Dama. The Bos tibia shaft has signs
of a blow.
Unidentied Contexts Localities that cannot be
securely ascribed to
Layers B1 or B2.
Center Units 2e3 30 Several int items and an
elephant pelvis. The
stratigraphic position of the
pelvis is not clear.
14 handaxes Part of an elephant pelvis, four teeth
fragments, two bone pieces of
elephant size and a rib.
South Units 2e3 2 and 3 Locality 2da small irregular
elliptical depression, 0.5 m
wide, 0.4 m deep; margins
not clearly dened.
Locality 3da depression cut on the
west by the quarry, 0.8 0.6 m,
maximum depth 0.45 m. Combined
area 6 m
; thickness 0.25e0.45 m.
Two isolated elliptical depressions
adjacent to each other.
The assemblage is dominated by
debitage and tools, choppers and
handaxes are rare. Small lithic
fragments are common.
1248 960 Locality 2: an elephant tusk, with
lengthwise splits, broken into small
fragments, and very eroded.
Locality 3: elephant pelvis with
gnawing marks, overlying a
mandible, and a distal part of a
tusk; ten teeth fragments; two skull
fragments; two tusk pieces. Other:
Two conjoinable pieces of a proximal
metacarpal of Cervus elaphus that were
broken in antiquity.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197188
Light erosion- surface relatively well preserved (robust splin-
ters, from at or long bones).
Encrusted with sediments.
Splittingdsediments accumulated in ssures; common in tusk
and long-bone shafts (Fig. 5aeb).
In situ breakageddetails are lost but the general outline of the
bone is preserved. Typical of larger bones and tusks.
Chunksdunidentiable pieces of various shapes and forms,
associated with stone tools.
Chemical analysis of the bone indicated the presence of the
mineral dahllite and that no collagen was left. The crystallinity of
the bone mineral was calculated following Weiner and Bar-Yosef
(1990), where the crystallinity is calculated as a ratio between
certain absorptions in the infrared spectra of the bones. At Revadim,
bone crystallinity ranges between 3.7 and 4.4, values that indicate
quite severe diagenesis of the bone mineral (Weiner and Bar-Yosef,
1990;Trueman et al., 2004). Manganese oxides cover the surface of
the bones in varying degrees. The unidentied chunks are also
composed of dahllite, but they no longer have the structure of
bones (Shahack-Gross, personal communication). Bone fragments
were found also in nodules: their formation is related to post-
depositional processes and inundation events (see details in
Marder et al., 2011).
3.2. Animal species
The mammalian species dened at Revadim (Table 4) include
Palaeoloxodon antiquus,Bos primigenius,Gazella gazella,Capra cf.
aegagrus,Cervus elaphus,Dama cf. mesopotamica, Cervidae sp.,
Capreolus cf. capreolus,Sus scrofa,Equus sp., Felis silvestris and
Hyaenid indet.
Microvertebrates, including rodents, insectivores, amphibians
and reptiles were retrieved as well. The most abundant species is
Microtus guentheri, other species are Spalax ehrenbergi and Croci-
dura cf. suaveolens. Amphibians are represented by Pseudepidalea cf.
viridis (synonym to Bufo viridis)and amphibians indet.; reptiles are
represented by Serpentes indet. (snake vertebrae) and Lacertilia
indet. (lizard osteoderm).
3.3. The elephants from Revadim
The elephants from Revadim were dened according to their
teeth as straight-tusked elephant, P. antiquus (hereafter elephant;
see Marder et al., 1999). Tusk fragments, teeth and post-cranial
elements were found throughout the excavated areas, in all
layers, and they represent several incomplete individuals. The MNI
of the elephants at the site was established taking into consider-
ation the stratigraphic origin, and the age and sex denition
according to the teeth and bones (Table 5). These data indicate the
presence at Revadim of at least three animals in Area B, two in Area
C, and one in Area A. However, MNI is not a satisfactory quanti-
cation method for this particular assemblage because elephant
bones can spread over a large area, while the exposed area per layer
and sub area is limited.
Skull fragments are few (N¼7), and originate from the
premaxilla, bulla tympanica(?), processes palatinus and processus
nasalis. The skull pieces vary from very small to 25 cm. Two
mandible parts were found, a right mandible ramus (mandibulae
foramen), and a complete jaw (see below under teeth).
Table 4
List of animal species from Revadim (NISP).
Species Total NISP
Palaeoloxodon antiquus 155
Bos primigenius 46
Capra cf. aegagrus 1
Gazella gazella 4
Cervus elaphus 10
Dama cf. mesopotamica 30
Cervidae sp. 2
Capreolus capreolus 1
Sus scrofa 6
Equus sp. 6
Felis silvestris 1
Hyaenid indet. 1
Microtus guenthri 51
Spalax ehrenbergi 5
Crocidura cf. suaveolens 1
Pseudepidalea cf. viridis 1
Amphibia indet. 2
Lacertilia indet. 1
Serpentes indet. 17
Fig. 5. (a) General view of a bone from Revadim coated with sediment; (b) Close up of
the sediment inclusions in the bone (photo by SEM, Museo Nacional de Ciencias
Naturales, Madrid).
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 18 9
Tusks (N¼27), which are the most indicative element of
elephants, occur throughout the site. Most of them are represented
by cuboid fragments that maintain the specic section of tusks.
They measure from less than a centimeter to over 2 m. When the
preservation of the surface made it possible, the diameter along
both axes was measured, and an attempt was made to locate the
position of the piece along the tusk (proximal or distal). When
pieces were found together, they were weighed as one tusk. In
several cases only a thin layer embedded in the sediment was
preserved, as was the case with the tusks from Area A (Marder et al.,
1999: 43, Fig. 16; Rabinovich et al., 2005) and from Area B. Many of
the tusks were coated by sediments and remained white inside. The
65 kg of tusk-pieces that were weighed represent only part of the
complete assemblage: tusks that were heavily embedded in sedi-
ments and soaked with consolidant were not weighed. These
include the largest recorded tusk, which is at least 2.5 m long, with
a diameter of 21e26 cm near its proximal end (Marder et al., 1999).
Another tusk of 36 kg, in mid-proximal location, has a diameter of
18e20 cm. Three tusks are of females or young males.
Teeth (N¼95), which are morphologically distinctive, consti-
tute most of the elephant remains. Most of the teeth are inner
pieces, from the occlusal surface of the root, and contain only up to
three plates of enamel. The thickness of the enamel was recorded
and it ranges from less than 2 mm to almost 4 mm. The only tooth
found still in the mandible belongs to an animal ca. 10e11 years old
(Locality 3; and see 3.6). The seven complete teeth (Lower dP3,
Lower dP4, three Lower M1; Upper M2, Upper M3) were found in
various localities, and belong to both young and older animals.
Post-cranial elements include ten ribs, eight vertebrae, three
scapulae and three pelves. Most of the rib fragments are shafts of
the rib body. The most complete rib is 83 cm long, deposited hor-
izontally (see 2.3, Locality 21, Fig. 8). The vertebrae remains are
from cervical, thoracic, vertebra spines and vertebra plates. One of
the vertebra plates is unfused.
The three scapulae, two notably complete, and one a distal part,
are all from the right side. One of the complete scapulae is partly
fused at its proximal end. Comparisons of the measurements of the
glenoid fossa suggest that they belong to at least two males and one
Three pelves (e.g. Fig. 7) were unearthed. One can be identied
as a left part, with acetabulum, pubis and ilium preserved; the
second consists of acetabulum, pubis and ischium; and the third is
the edge of an ilium (crista iliaca). The measurements were
compared with specimens from Binsfeld (Göhlich, 2000) and
Crumstadt (Kroll, 1991), and show that the Revadim pelves were
probably of male elephants, though the proportions as well as post-
depositional deformations may indicate small size males (Fig. 8).
The absence of limb parts such as metapodials, carpals/tarsals
and phalanges is remarkable (Table 5), the only probable limb is
a humerus from Area E that was broken in situ (assigned to the
group of body-sizeand therefore not presented in Table 5).
3.4. Taphonomy of the elephant remains from Revadim
The complexity of studying elephants in the archaeological
fossil record is exacerbated by the difculties of identifying surface
modications, because the thick skin and high levels of body fat
minimize contact between any agent of modication and the bone.
Moreover at Revadim, 90% of the elephant bones had old breaks
and ca. 60% were coated with sediment that was embedded in the
minute cracks that appear along the teeth plates, tusks and bone-
surfaces. Cleaning, whether mechanically, or with diluted acid,
Table 5
Identied bones of Palaeoloxodon antiquus from Revadim (NISP).
Body element Area
Area C
and East
Southern quarry
cliff (below
Areas A and C)
Area B Eastern quarry
cliff (below
Area B)
Western quarry
cliff (below
Area D)
and trenches
Skull fragments 1 2 2 1 6
Premaxilla 11
Mandible 112
Tusk complete 1 1 13
Tusk proximal 22
Tusk distal 3 3
Tusk fragment 2 4 1 2 10 19
Teeth 30 4 49 4 8 95
Ribs 1 1 4 1 3 10
Vertebrae 11 1 3
Atlas 11
Cervical 1 1 2
Thoracic 1 12
Scapula 113
Pelvis 213
Total 3 33 8 67 8 4 31 155
Fig. 6. Locality 21delephant rib (covered with gauze) in association with int arti-
facts, including handaxe (marked by the arrow; detail in the upper left corner).
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197190
may cause exfoliation of the outer surface of the bones. Thus, the
likelihood of detecting genuine surface modications is low. Other
surface alterations, such as scalar breaks and root etching, were
very rare, limited to one to two occurrences each.
The very few modications that were discerned on the surface
of the elephant bones originate from both human and carnivore
activities. They include cut marks on two ribs (nos. 2004, 2042) and
a scapula (no. 2107, Fig. 9). Rib no. 2042 was also scratched by
carnivores. Medium-large size carnivores left their mark also on an
elephant pelvis (no. 2040), and on a robust fragment of a mandible
ramus (no. 2003).
The numerous large, unidentiable, elephant bone-chunks at
the site could be the product of two different processes: long bones
being broken to extract marrow and fat (Fisher, 1993, 2001) and/or
used as quarry source for bone tools (Holen, 2006); or decompo-
sition due to post-depositional processes.
Ethnographic data regarding hunting and butchery of elephants
show considerable variability in practices, according to circum-
stances such as animal size, fat condition, size of human group, prey
availability, and more (Fisher, 1993,2001). Handling time of a large
animal carcass is costly and therefore there are not many human
groups that specialize exclusively in elephant hunting (Fisher,
2001; but see e.g.; Byers and Ugan, 2005; vs.; Holen, 2006).
In an attempt to decipher the enigma of hominin/elephant
relations, the next section shall examine the spatial distribution of
the elephant bones at Revadim in detail, and their relation to the
lithic techno-complex characteristics and geomorphological
3.5. Spatial distribution of the elephants at Revadim
Animal remains were uncovered in all the areas of the excava-
tion and in all the occupation layers. Tusks and teeth mark the
presence of elephants through the entire Revadim sequence,
including surface collections (mainly teeth), the collapse of the
quarry cliff, Unit 2 and the interface of Unit 2 and Unit 3.
In spite of the generally poor state of preservation of the bones,
some of the elephant elements were conjoined (scapula, rib,
vertebra and tusks). Often the conjoining pieces were heavily
encrusted with sediment, and required delicate cleaning before the
joins could be identied (Beiner and Rabinovich, submitted for
publication). Joins were even identied between different areas.
The distal part of the scapula (no. 2038), which was found on the
Fig. 7. (a) Area B, Locality 3, initial stages of exposure of the elephant pelvis (no. 2040),
mandible (no.2003) and int artifacts (marked by the arrows) within the depression;
(b) Full exposure of the elephant pelvis and mandible.
Fig. 8. Locality 3. Pelves measurements from Revadim and other sources (Kroll, 1991;Göhlich, 2000). Top right, pelvis no. 2040, points of the measurement marked.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 191
surface of Area B, for example, conjoined with the supraspinous
fossa,infraspinous fossa and spine elements found in the collapse of
the quarry cliff. Joins were also found for pieces of a thoracic
vertebra (no. 2027) from the bottom of the quarry cliff, and for a rib
shaft (no. 2016) from Locality 21, as well as for a proximal meta-
carpal of C. elaphus from Locality 3 (Table 3).
In Area A, a tusk measuring ca. 2.5 m was exposed during
backhoe trenching (Marder et al., 1999, 46, Fig. 16). The tusk was
deposited on a slope (northwestesoutheast) and its proximal part
had been broken. In its vicinity, three bone fragments of elephant
size were conjoined (Marder et al., 1999, 46).
Many of the bones from Area C (occupation Layers C1eC5) were
very fragmented when exposed, and were consolidated in the eld,
as described above. Once in the laboratory, many were restorable.
These bones from Area C could only be assigned to body-size group.
In the eastern part of Area C, however, in layer C3, an elephant skull
fragment and part of a rib were uncovered in addition to frag-
mented elephant teeth.
Most of the elephant remains from Area C, Layer C2, are teeth
fragments, each consisting of one or two inner plates of enamel and
dentine, from the mid crown or close to the root. Some of the
fragments that were found in close proximity probably belong to
the same tooth that had been broken in antiquity.
The accretions on conjoinable bone-parts, the inner cracks along
the bones and the poor preservation of the teeth and tusks imply
exposure to humidity/dryness cycles before burial. The fact that
conjoins under such conditions have hardly been recorded indi-
cates a need for more careful examination in future.
3.6. Distribution of elephant remains in Area B
The distribution of elephant and other faunal remains in Area B
will be described in detail because of the dense archaeological
horizons associated with elephant remains in this area. The
descriptions of the main localities in which elephant elements
were found are summarized in Tab le 3 (Fi g. 10). The signicance of
the distribution and the stratigraphic position of these elements
will be part of the discussion below. The elephant remains are
dispersed throughout the sub-areas of Area B, yet their association
with the archaeological horizons is unambiguous. Tusks, teeth,
ribs, scapulae, and pelves were recovered within these horizons
(Figs. 6 and 7).
According to the reconstruction of the micro-topography of Area
B(Fig. 3), it features a small protrusion surrounded by small
depressions in which most of the elephant remains were located.
Area B Center is on the slope adjacent to the highest point, while
Area B North and South are located on the lowest slopes of the
protrusion (Marder et al., 2011).
Locality 3 in Area B South (Figs. 3, 7 and 10b) is of special
interest. This is a depression in which an elephant pelvis was found
overlying a mandible which extended southwest, above the distal
end of a tusk and other bones (Table 3). Gnawing marks were
visible on the edge of the pubis, the ilium shaft had jagged ends and
the acetabulum had cracks along its socket. The mandible was not
complete: the mandibular inner wall was collapsed and only one
tooth remained. The right-hand mandibular ramus was missing
and the left one was incomplete, its edge jagged. The distal tusk
which lies underneath the mandible is of a young male, or of
a female. It is relatively well preserved, and usage marks are visible
on its tip. The elements in this pile are not in any anatomical
position and do not necessarily belong to a single animal. It is clear
that at least the mandible and the tusk were exposed for some time,
making it possible for animals to gnaw the edges of the bones and
for the weathering process to cause cracks along their surfaces.
Nevertheless, they remained in association with numerous stone
implements and in close proximity were two conjoining pieces of
a metacarpal. The general appearance of the elephant pelvis from
Locality 3 is similar to that of the pelvis from Locality 30, but the
latter is heavily encrusted with sediment, implying that it was
exposed for longer periods under slightly different conditions.
The distribution patterns of the elephant remains suggest that
preservation was not uniform in the different localities of Area B.
GIS presentation of the data (i.e. Figs. 3 and 10) illustrates these
patterns. In Area B Center (e.g. Localities 21, 31) and in Area B South
(Locality 20) most of the nds lay in horizontal position. Locality 20
is probably a continuation of Locality 21, as both are part of Layer
B2, and were found within similar type of sediment and apparently
in primary deposition. By contrast, in Area B South, some of the
artifacts and bones, particularly in Localities 2 and 3, were clustered
in vertical position in a depression, a situation that suggests
secondary deposition and reinforces the sedimentological obser-
vations that the depressions functioned as geomorphological traps.
4. Bone tools and aked bones
Revadim is the rst site in the southern Levant in which artifacts
made on elephant bones were found in a Lower Paleolithic context.
Tools made of bones of other animals were also found, but
discussion is outside the scope of this article.
An elongated wedge-like tool (no. 5008, Fig. 11), made on a large
piece of bone (24 8.5 2.8 cm), most probably an elephant
humerus shaft, was found at the bottom of the quarry within the
collapses of Area B. It was encrusted in hard sediment that obscured
the details of the surface. A fresh break on the distal end revealed
white section, which is typical of the bones at Revadim. The section
is rectangular and may have been shaped. The most impressive
detail is the smoothed proximal edge. No similar surface treatment
was found at the site, even though all the bone material was
examined microscopically, and the authors are not familiar with
any parallels from other Lower Paleolithic sites. However, there is
no doubt that this is an intentionally shaped item. Further studies
will hopefully identify a possible function for this bone tool.
Two other tools were shaped on bone akes. One was found
next to a int handaxe in Trench 23 (no. 5007), in the contact
between Unit 2 and Unit 3, probably within Layer B2. The second
was found in Locality 20 (Layer B2; no. 5003). In the absence of any
preserved original morphological surface, their thickness is the
indication that these are elephant bones. The general appearance of
these artifacts resembles that of numerous bones at the site, but
Fig. 9. Cut marks on an elephant scapula (no. 2107), medial aspect.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197192
their surface is coated with a dark blackish concretion which shows
signs of exfoliation, exposing the whitish inner structure of the
bone and showing longitudinal splitting on its dorsal surface and
along its edges.
Bone ake (no. 5007, Fig. 12) from Trench 23 (11.2 6.5 2.8 cm) is
made of a limb-bone shaft(?). It is leaf-shaped and biface-like, its
proximal end roundedwhile the distal one is slightly pointed. Its prole
is irregular in shape. The dorsal surface is convex near the proximal end
and deeply concave on the distal end, while the ventral prole is
reversed (i.e. concave at the proximal end and slightly convex at the
distal end). Two, or even three akes were struck off the large bone. At
rst two initial akes were removed from both edges, an d then a larger
one (4.48 9.46 cm) was removed from the left side, obscuring the
contour of the two previous scars. The large wide butt of the artefact
(5.4 cm) possibly indicatesthat a large at surface was used as a striking
platform. Finally, the right lateral edge was modied by removing two
or three small akes near its distal point, the result resembling
aretouch(Fig. 12). The intention may have been to achieve a shape
resembling int handaxes, a phenomenon well known from Acheulian
sites in Europe (e.g. Gaudzinski et al., 2005).
Fig. 10. Location of bones and other nds in Area B: (a) Center; (b) South.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 193
The second bone ake (no. 5003, Fig. 13) from Locality 20, is very
similar in morphology. It is made on a small, short and thick ake
(6.2 5.2 3.3 cm) with a convex, slightly pointed working edge,
possibly formed by bifacial aking. The ventral surface was modi-
ed by the removal of small akes (approximately 2e3 cm wide);
the aking marks on its dorsal surface are obscured by surface
attrition. Bone exfoliation removed most of the thick butt (Fig. 13).
Very small int bifaces, less than 10 cm long, are not rare in the
Revadim lithic assemblages (Marder et al., 2006) and this small
bone bifacemay imitate the miniature int ones.
5. Discussion
Revadim is, as far as known, the only Paleolithic site in the
southern Levant in which proboscideans dominate the faunal
remains and bones shaped into tools were found. The nature of the
interaction between proboscideans and hominins is complex and
controversial. The following discussion will focus on the insights
gained into these interactions through analysis of spatial distribu-
tion and taphonomy.
In order to discuss the spatial association of int artifacts and
proboscidean remains at Revadim, as wellas hominin activities and
subsistence strategies, it is necessary to recapitulate the different
archaeological contexts, and reconstruct the ancient topography of
the site. Particular attention will be paid to Area B, where most of
the well preserved proboscideans remains were uncovered.
The archaeological contexts that were rich in proboscideans can
be divided into two:
1. Fast palimpsestsdfound mainly within Layer B2, these
contexts are located in moderately undulating topography,
close to the highest point of Area B (i.e. Locality 21), or at a short
distance from it (i.e. Locality 20; Fig. 3). The archaeological
remains are dense, well preserved and most of the digitized
artifacts were in horizontal position. The remains of the
elephant rib and scapula with cut marks, accompanied by a rich
lithic assemblage, indicate hominin activity within this setting,
most probably associated with proboscideans butchery.
2. Deep depressionsdLocalities 2 and 3, and possibly Locality 30,
are deep depressions in the lower parts of AreaB (Fig. 3), within
deeply eroded surfaces. Most of the archaeological remains
were in vertical position. It seems that the depressions func-
tioned as geomorphological traps. The abundance of very small
int fragments, and the dominance of fresh lithic artifacts,
suggest that the nds originated nearby.
Therefore, there were at least two depositional and post-
depositional processes in Area B during the Lower Paleolithic. The
rst resulted in the Fast palimpsestcontexts that offer indisput-
able evidence to hominin activity. The rich lithic assemblages they
contain in association with elephant remains, indicate consump-
tion of proboscideans by Acheulian hominins. Interpretation of the
second type of contexts is less secure. They could not be directly
related to anthropogenic agencies, and although it is believed that
the rich elephant nds are the outcome of hominin activities, they
may also be attributed to natural accumulation agencies.
Fig. 11. Wedge-like bone tool (no. 5008) from the collapse of Area B.
Fig. 12. Shaped bone ake (no. 5007) probably from Layer B2. Fig. 13. Shaped bone ake (no. 5003) from Locality 20 Layer B2.
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197194
The rills and gullies erosion phenomenon at Revadim is
considered to be natural erosion due to piping and gully activities,
which develops in many types of sediments including sandy
material (Jones, 1994;Poesen, 2003;Valentin et al., 2005). Rills and
gullies develop in environments with a combination of sparse
vegetation and extreme rain storm events (Poesen, 2003;Valentin
et al., 2005;Svoray and Ben-Said, 2010).
This type of paleolandscape is typical of elephantsbiotopes,
where they dig depressions that function as mud-wallows pits,
salt-lick pans, drinking holes lled with rain water, or wells lled by
high water table (Jarman, 1972;Conybeare and Haynes, 1984;
Butler, 1995;Haynes, 2001,2006,2011). The elephants may have
contributed to the development of the gullies at Revadim.
Bulky elements such as tusks, mandibles, scapulae, and pelves
are usually parts that are left behind in butchery/processing sites
(Fisher, 2001). According to ethnographic records that describe
communal butchery and processing, the number of participants in
these activities varies substantially (Fisher, 1993). The extensive
activity that is related to lithic production in situ is an indirect
evidence of hominin repeated activities at Revadim (Marder et al.,
2006). This suggests a large group of individuals engaged in pro-
cessing and consumption, and even in delayed return activities in
the form of preparing strips of meat and fat. Perhaps not all the
parts were exploited, and a large amount was left on the spot.
The information provided by the elephant bones at Revadim is
signicant but the evidence of absence is eloquent as well. The
paucity of upper and lower limbs, including metapodials, carpals/
tarsals and phalanges, is striking, since in extant elephants these
are the bones with the highest fat content, in particular the fatty
padsunder the phalanges (Weissengruber et al., 2006). These fatty
parts may have been removed from the archaeological horizon and
consumed elsewhere. As small- and medium-size bones exist at the
site, several with in situ conjoinable elements, the option of post-
depositional uvial transportation is less likely. It is suspected
that the robust, thick bone-chunks at the site may have been parts
of elephant limbs, but in the absence of clear identiable facets, this
is merely a suggestion. There is no doubt, however, that these
chunks are the remains of a large animal, and in the circumstances,
an elephant is highly probable.
The sturdy shape of the elephant limb-bones is distinct, and in
contrast to other mammals, they have no marrow cavity, but the
bones themselves are rich in fat that can be extracted by heating.
There is, however, no evidence of the use of re at Revadim, with
the exception of a few possibly burnt ints (Marder et al., 1999;
Solodenko, 2010).
Revadim is the earliest site in the southern Levant where
elephant bones were used to produce artifacts that resemble
Acheulian stone bifaces. Production of similar tools in both stone
and bone is intriguing (Gaudzinski et al., 2005;Costa, 2010). Bone
tools occur in sites in southern Africa, as early as 1e2ma(dErrico
and Backwell, 2009). In Europe akes and tools, including han-
daxes, made of elephant bones were recovered from Middle
Pleistocene Acheulian sites in Italy that date to ca. 300 ka (Anzidei,
2001;Biddittu and Celletti, 2001); bone hammers were found at
sites dating to 500 ka in England (Roberts and Partt, 1999). Bones
used as raw material have ongoing role in the debate regarding the
earliest occupation in North America. Actualistic experiments on
extant elephant bones demonstrate that it is indeed possible to use
the long bones to produce akes (e.g. Holen, 2006).
The earliest report of a bone tool in the southern Levant was by
Stekelis (1960, Fig. 31; 1967), who described a pointed fragment of
an elephants(?) humerus from Gesher Benot Yaaqov, highly pol-
ished at one end, which he suggested had been used as a lissoir for
working skins. Clark (1977) discussed the possibility that the arti-
fact described by Stekelis was not a tool, and suggested methods of
examination to determine this, that were later applied in tapho-
nomic methodology.
The variety of tools made of animal bones, including elephant
bones, at Revadim is noteworthy. This practice is probably related
to the multiple tasks represented at the site, or there may be an as
yet unexplained link between the bone and stone bifaces,
expressed by the association of elephant butchering tools made of
int, with their imitations made of elephant bones. The abundance
of int implements at the site indicates that bones were not used
because of shortage in raw material.
At Revadim, 90% of the elephant bones have old breaks and ca.
60% are coated with sediment. Very few surface modications
were discerned on the elephant bones. These include cuts marks
on two ribs and a scapula (Localities 21, 30). One of the ribs
(Locality 21) was also scratched by animals. Medium-large size
carnivores left their marks also on an elephant pelvis (Locality 3),
and on a robust fragment of a mandible ramus found in a collapse
context. Carnivores of medium-large size were active at the site. As
in the case of Locality 3, the carnivores damaged the bones before
their nal deposition on top of each other, but probably when little
if any skin and fat were left, otherwise they would not have left
such a clear pattern of scratches and gnawing. Whether the
condition of the carcass was due to animal consumption, natural
decomposition or hominins activity cannot be determined at this
6. Conclusions
The Late Acheulian open-air site of Revadim yielded rich
archaeological nds and animal bones, including numerous
elephant remains. This is in marked contrast to the other sites in the
southern Levant. In Eurasia and Africa on the other hand, there are
numerous contemporary sites that are dominated by elephants or
mammoths, and they constitute the data base on which most
interpretations of elephantehominin interactions rely (e.g.
Berthelet and Chavaillon, 2001;Villa et al., 2005;Wenban-Smith
et al., 2006). However, the specic history of each site makes
them very difcult to compare, since accumulation took place in
diverse sedimentological and environmental settings. It is apparent
that Revadim is signicantly different from most other sites, in the
density of int artifacts found adjacent to the elephant remains, as
well as in the presence of cut marks on elephant bones, and in the
use of elephant bones as raw material for tools-production. The cut
marks on the scapula and ribs are particularly notable because they
indicate lleting of meat. Coping with large quantities of meat may
require a combination of immediate- and delayed-return strategies
such as consumption on site, and drying meat for later consump-
tion. Such procedures were possible in the paleoclimate of
Studies of contemporary human societies that rely heavily on
elephant exploitation (e.g. Fisher, 1993,2001;Yravedra et al., 2010)
provide some insights, but are of limited use. Ethnographic data
show great variability in methods of elephant hunting and
butchery, depending on the circumstance of both human and prey,
e.g. animal size, fat condition, size of human group and prey
availability. A feasible scenario can be offered for the
hominineelephant association at Revadim, by considering the
elephant record in conjunction with the information of the
archaeological horizons, paying particular attention to Area B,
where detailed information about the association between bones
and artifacts is available.
The recurrent association of elephant remains and stone tools at
Revadim points to hominin manipulation of these large animals.
The use of elephant bones to produce artifacts, some of which
resemble the characteristic stone handaxes, may further imply
R. Rabinovich et al. / Quaternary International 276-277 (2012) 183e197 195
non-functional usage of the remains of these large animals, rein-
forcing the signicance of elephants in Acheulian contexts.
The paucity of upper and lower elephant limb at the site
considered in conjunction with the cut marks on the rib and
scapula suggests that elephants may have beenbutchered in Area B
and the elements that were rich in meat and/or fat were then
transported to another location. The coexistence of cut marks and
carnivores gnawing marks may indicate a more complex scenario
of overlapping activities. Unfortunately, the data from Revadim
cannot contribute to the debate of hunting versus scavenging of
elephants in the Acheulian. However, the archaeological record
indicates capabilities that would make large-game hunting possible
for Lower Paleolithic hominins.
We are indebted to Ami Gileadi who discovered the site and
reported on several of the elephant remains presented here. The
study of the elephant bones would not been possible without the
careful conservation work of Gali Beiner. Smadar Gabrieli cleaned
the bone tools. We are grateful to Pavel Shrago for photographing
the artifacts and to Leonid Zeiger and Michael Smeliansky for
drawing the maps and int artifacts. We thank also Ariel Malinsky-
Buller and Nuha Agha for their help in technical aspects during the
preparation of this paper. The project was supported by the Israel
Science Foundation (Grant No. 1050/09), Yad Hanadiv Foundation
and the Israel Antiquities Authority. The elephant study was sup-
ported by the SYNTHESYS program that allowed Rivka Rabinovich
to visit the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales at Madrid; special
thanks to Dr. Begona Sanches Chillón, our host at the Paleonto-
logical Department of the museum, and to Laura Tormo, who took
great care over the SEM photos. Prof. Adrian Lister was as always
very helpful. Finally we thank Smadar Gabrieli for the language
editing and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful
comments, which contributed considerably to improve this paper.
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... In the past, hominins have been observed to have different hunting patterns, where specific species of animals were targeted (e.g. Rabinovich et al. 2008Rabinovich et al. , 2012Fa et al. 2013;Solodenko et al. 2015;Agam and Barkai 2018;Altamura et al. 2020;Starkovich and Conard 2020). The earliest evidence of anthropogenic activities on bones is associated with the evidence from Dikika (c. ...
... The use of lithic artefacts in food processing is undeniable, but direct evidence is yet to be discovered in the Lower Palaeolithic period. In the Lower Palaeolithic period of the Old World, various sites give an insight into the butchery of large animals in lakeshore or wetland environments, such as Olorgesailie, Koobi Fora in East Africa, Revadim in Israel and Barranc de la Boella in Spain (Pobiner et al. 2008;Owen et al. 2009;Rabinovich et al. 2012;Mosquera et al. 2015). The evidence is preserved because of the palimpsest of finer material with minimal disturbance to the assemblage. ...
Whether scavenging or hunting, the consumption of large mammals is very prominent in the history of humankind. During the Lower Palaeolithic period, the abundance of large cutting tools indicated increased meat consumption. Evidence has demonstrated this at various African and European sites where direct links between lithic and faunal assemblages have been made, i.e., cut-marked bones and use-wear studies. In the Indian Subcontinent, there is a lack of direct evidence on animal remains in archaeological contexts (with one exception); however, there are numerous sites where animal fossils and lithic artefacts occur in shared contextual associations. The present paper is concerned with the relationships between the lithic and faunal assemblages in archaeological contexts, particularly the occurrence of bifaces and large mammalian fossils in Lower Palaeolithic assemblages with specific reference to the central Indian zone. Without the confirmation of anthropogenic signatures on Pleistocene faunal remains, it isn't easy to assess whether a particular assemblage has the contemporaneous deposition of the two datasets or not. Here, we present a review of archaeological and faunal records in the central Narmada Valley and explore the possible associative evidence between human-animal interactions.
... This view has further been expanded to the African continent, as several studies propose the existence of some of these traits among earlier AMH populations in Middle Stone Age sites throughout Africa (e.g., [74,[119][120][121]). However, many recent studies point to the existence of such capabilities among Neanderthals as well (e.g., [122][123][124][125]), as well as among other pre-AMH species (e.g., [19,126,127]), suggesting that this view should be reconsidered (and see [117]). ...
Full-text available
We examined lithic artifacts from the late Neanderthal site Sesselfelsgrotte (Bavaria, Ger-many) in order to evaluate the possibility of fire use and intentional flint heat treatment performed by late Neanderthals. We analyzed 1113 flint pieces from the G-layer complex (~60 to 45 kya; Micoquian) and 946 from the lower-layer complex (~115 to 70 kya; Mousterian). Based on macroscopic traits associated with the exposure of flint to heat and fire, we assigned artifacts to one of three groups: burnt, unburnt, and possibly intentionally heated. Our results show that while both complexes demonstrate the clear presence of fire, fire is more common in the younger G-layer complex. Moreover, possibly intentionally heated pieces are significantly more frequent in the G-layer complex, especially among the tools and specifically among side scrapers, suggesting a link between heat treatment and the production of these tools, most probably due to their functional and cultural significance. We therefore suggest that the flint in the G-layer complex of Sesselfelsgrotte underwent intentional heat treatment. The proportions of burnt flint artifacts in both complexes suggest an intensification in fire use at the site over time, while the appearance of possibly intentionally heated artifacts in the G-layer complex suggests the development of this advanced pyrotechnology by Neanderthals sometime between these two timeframes. Our results are supported by sedimentological and faunal data. We view these results as further indication of the advanced cognitive and technological capabilities of Neanderthals, which did not fall short of those of early modern humans.
... The stratigraphy in many of these sites attests repeated visits to these favoured localities (Gilead and Ronen 1977;Goren-Inbar and Speth 2004;Barzilai et al. 2006;Chazan and Horwitz 2007;Marder et al. 2011;Bar-Yosef and Belfer-Cohen 2013). A common characteristic of the Acheulian sites is the composition of the faunal assemblages, demonstrating the preferential exploitation of medium to large-sized mammals and, in some cases, extremely large-sized mammals such as elephants and hippopotamuses (Yizraeli 1967;Tchernov 1987;Horwitz and Tchernov 1989;Tchernov 1992, Tchernov et al. 1994Martínez-Navarro et al. 2009;Yeshurun et al. 2011;Rabinovich et al. 2012aRabinovich et al. , 2012b. While the Acheulian of the Mediterranean woodland is well explored, it is currently underrepresented in the Negev despite the fact that this region was comprehensively investigated during the 1970the −1980s (Marks 1976the , 1977the , 1983Gilead 1981;Goring-Morris 1987). ...
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The current study reports the discovery of a new production site of handaxes and cleavers on flakes at Nahal Barak in the southern Negev Desert, Israel. The Nahal Barak site complex is located immediately below and around a conglomerate outcrop of Pliocene-Early Pleistocene age. The outcrop consists of large boulders of coarse-grained silicified limestone, originally of Middle Eocene age, that were used as giant cores for producing large flakes which in turn were modified into handaxes and cleavers. Handaxes and cleavers on large flakes made from coarse-grained raw materials are quite rare in the Levant and are currently confined to the Middle Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov in the Hula Valley. Recent extensive fieldwork in western and central Arabia has revealed production sites for handaxes and cleavers on large flakes from coarse-grained materials such as andesite and rhyolite. These bifacial tools were made on large flakes, produced from giant cores by a distinctive knapping method. The technological characteristics of the Nahal Barak sites show similarities with Acheulian sites in western and central Arabia, especially with the Saffaqah sites near Dwadma where production of coarse-grained handaxes and cleavers from giant andesite cores was documented. This observation implies on cultural connections between the southern Negev region and the Arabian Peninsula during the Lower Palaeolithic period. Résumé. La présente étude fait état de la découverte d'un nouveau de production de bifaces et de hachereaux sur éclats à Nahal Barak, dans le sud du désert du Néguev, en Israël. Le site de Nahal Barak est situé immédiatement en contrebas et aux alentours d'un affleurement de conglomérat datant du Pliocène-Pléistocène ancien. L'affleurement site se compose de gros blocs de calcaire silicifié à grain grossier d'âge Eocène moyen. Ces blocs ont été utilisés comme nucleus « géants » (« giant cores ») pour la production de grands éclats ultérieurement transformés en bifaces et hachereaux. De tels outils sur matériau à grain grossier sont rares au Levant ; ils ne sont connus actuellement que dans le site Acheuléen moyen de Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, dans la vallée de la Hula. Des recherches de terrain extensives menées récemment dans l'ouest et le centre de l'Arabie ont révélé des sites de production de bifaces et hachereaux sur grands éclats provenant de matériaux à grain grossier tels que l'andésite et la rhyolite. Ces outils bifaciaux ont été fabriqués sur de larges éclats, produits à partir de nucléus « géants » selon une méthode de taille particulière. Les caractéristiques technologiques des assemblages provenant de Nahal Barak présentent des similitudes avec ceux provenant des sites acheuléens d'Arabie occidentale et centrale, en particulier avec les sites de Saffaqah près de Dwadma, dans lesquels la production de bifaces et hachereaux à partir de nucleus « géants » en andésite à grain grossier a été identifiée. Des connexions culturelles entre le sud du Néguev et la péninsule arabique au cours du Paléolithique inférieur peuvent alors être envisagées. Entrées d'index Mots-clés : Nahal Barak, Sud du Néguev, Matière première à grain grossier, Bifaces, Hachereaux ; technologie lithique., Technologie lithique
... This view was further expanded to the African continent, as several studies proposed the existence of some of these traits among earlier AMH populations in Middle Stone Age sites throughout Africa (e.g., Brown et al. 2009;d'Errico et al. 2005;Henshilwood et al. 2002;Marean et al. 2007). However, many recent studies point to the existence of such capabilities among Neanderthals as well (e.g., Finlayson 2019; Hoffmann et al. 2018;Roebroeks et al. 2012;Soressi et al. 2013), as well as among other pre-AMH species (e.g., Agam 2020; Rabinovich et al. 2012;Zohar et al. 2022), suggesting that this view should be re-considered (and see Breyl 2021). ...
Full-text available
We examine lithic artifacts from Late Neanderthal site Sesselfelsgrotte (Bavaria, Germany) to evaluate the possibility of fire-use and the intentional flint heat treatment performed by Late Neanderthals. We analyzed 1,113 flint pieces from the G-Layers-Complex (~ 60 to 45 kya; Micoquian), and 946 from the Lower-Layers-Complex (~ 115 to 70 kya; Mousterian), based on macroscopic traits associated with the exposure of flint to fire, assigning artifacts to one of three groups: burnt, unburnt, and possibly intentionally heated. Our results show that while both complexes demonstrate clear presence of fire, fire is more common in the younger G-Layers-Complex. Moreover, possibly intentionally heated pieces are significantly more frequent in the G-Layers-Complex, especially among the tools, and specifically among side scrapers, proposing a link between heat treatment and the production of these tools, most probably due to their functional and cultural significance. We therefore suggest the intentional heat treatment of flint in the G-Layers-Complex of Sesselfelsgrotte. The proportions of burnt flint artifacts in both sequences suggest an intensification in fire-use at the site over time, while the appearance of possibly intentionally heated artifacts in the G-Layers-Complex suggests the development of this advanced pyro-technology by Neanderthals, sometime between these two timeframes. Our results are supported by sedimentological and faunal data. We view these results as further indication for the advanced cognitive and technological capabilities of Neanderthals, such that did not fall from these of Early Modern Humans.
... Humans utilized elephants for food, religious rituals, and pets. Archaeologists found evidence of elephant exploitation in the dismembered bones and signs of damage done by poachers [117,118]. In this case, humans interact with wildlife to fulfill their food needs, to gain self-esteem, and to reduce stress [119]. ...
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The high rate of deforestation and fragmentation of elephant habitat on Sumatra Island has triggered human-elephant conflict (HEC) in Sumatra Island, Indonesia. This conflict brings negative impacts on humans and elephants. Despite numerous efforts having been made to solve this problem, the HEC continues to occur in the remaining elephant enclave every year. The harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants could be improved through HEC mitigation programs. The aim of this paper was to review information on HEC in Sumatra Island, investigate the causes and implications of HEC, review existing HEC mitigation methods, and formulate strategies to improve the harmonious coexistence between humans and elephants. The best strategies to create successful human and elephant coexistence are strengthening the institutions and policies, restoring the habitat, developing wildlife corridors, establishing Essential Ecosystem Areas (EEA), community empowerment through ecotourism, providing legal access to forests through Social Forestry (SF), and providing compensation schemes for conflict victims.
... The use of small flakes in butchering activities is attested by numerous Levantine and European sites. In some contexts, in fact, these tools have been found in association with the remains of medium and large animals (Goren Inbar et al. 2018;Rabinovich et al. 2012). This paper aims to provide data to comprehend the role of lithic tools of small size in the exploitation of animal resources by hominins in the Late Lower Paleolithic. ...
Conference Paper
Grotta Romanelli, a key site for prehistoric studies in Italy, is located on the Adriatic coast of southern Apulia near Castro (LE). Discovered in 1871, its deposits were the subject of extensive studies from the early twentieth century until the 1970s. Since then the field activities were suspended until 2015, when a new excavation campaign was started by a team coordinated by Sapienza University of Rome, in collaboration with IGAG-CNR and other research institutes with thepermission of the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio for the provinces of Brindisi and Lecce. At the same time as the research activities, the digitization and the creation of three- dimensional models of the excavated finds, of the cave deposits and of the engraved walls has been planned. This approach allows to have an accurate digital archive of the finds, a general overview of the excavation progress and a useful support for the study rock art. Photogrammetry was used for digitization. This technique is used in many scientific disciplines, recently employed in the cataloging and dissemination of paleontological and archaeological findings. In fact, it allows the production of high-resolution three-dimensional models starting from photographic images. The first models of the cave and the etched walls were made during the 2016 excavations, reproducing a three-dimensional "snapshot" of the deposits condition in the cave at the end of the campaign. This model was then updated in the following years with the progress of the field activities, creating a digital excavation diary, that can be easily used as an exceptionally valid tool for the musealization and accessibility of the cave.
... L'uso delle small flakes nelle attività di macellazione è attestato in numerosi siti Levantini ed Europei. In alcuni contesti, infatti, questi strumenti sono stati rinvenuti in associazione a resti di animali di medie e grandi dimensioni(Goren Inbar et al. 2018;Rabinovich et al. 2012). Questo articolo vuole fornire dati per comprendere il ruolo degli strumenti litici di piccole dimensioni nello sfruttamento delle risorse animali da parte degli ominidi nel tardo Paleolitico Inferiore. ...
Conference Paper
The Roman territory and its surroundings represent one of most important areas for the study of the European Middle Pleistocene mammal paleocommunities. Since the 19th century, thousands of vertebrate fossils have been recovered from a considerable number of localities of the Roman Campaign (Campagna Romana) or within the city. Unfortunately, the majority of historical deposits, especially those located within the urban area of Rome, was destroyed or buried beneath anthropogenetic modifications. Most of the mammal remains recovered during the last centuries is housed in the “Museo Universitario di Scienze della Terra”, Sapienza University of Rome (MUST; including the former Museum of Paleontology), and several other findings are scattered in many museums and institutions. By integrating the revision of these collections with a thoughtful examination of historical information (e.g., literature, maps, and original labels associated with the fossil specimens) it is often possible to refine their chronological placement. This approach is crucial for reconstructing the evolution of mammal faunas and their response to the climatic changes occurred during the last 800 ka.
... The use of small flakes in butchering activities is attested by numerous Levantine and European sites. In some contexts, in fact, these tools have been found in association with the remains of medium and large animals (Goren Inbar et al. 2018;Rabinovich et al. 2012). This paper aims to provide data to comprehend the role of lithic tools of small size in the exploitation of animal resources by hominins in the Late Lower Paleolithic. ...
Conference Paper
New fieldwork activities at Grotta Romanelli started in 2015, coordinated by Sapienza, University of Rome and in collaboration with IGAG CNR and other research institutions. This coastal cave, located in the administrative territory of the Castro municipality, within the Otranto-Santa Maria di Leuca Coast and Tricase Woods regional natural parks (Lecce, Apulia, southern Italy), plays a key role for studies on the Mediterranean Quaternary. The general stratigraphical scheme proposed by Blanc in the 1920s in fact, became a reference for Late Pleistocene paleontological, archeological, paleoanthropological and geomorphological research. The general stratigraphical scheme and chronology proposed by Blanc, nevertheless, was repeatedly questioned in literature and some issues are still unresolved. New chronostratigraphic and geomorphological assessment revealed a more complex and differentiated succession of layers, especially for the lower complex where radiometric datings indicate a deposition between MIS 11 and MIS 5. The findings recovered during 2015-2019 excavations, in addition to the revision of the historical paleontological collections housed at Museo delle Civiltà (former Museo Preistorico Etnografico "Luigi Pigorini"), Istituto Italiano di Paleontologia Umana (IsIPU) and Museo di Geologia e Paleontologia, Sistema Museale di Ateneo, Università di Firenze, will add important information on the biochronological framework on European Mediterranean communities of the late Middle to early Late Pleistocene.
Excavations carried out at the South African open-air site of Duinefontein 2 (DFT2) during the early 1970s and late 1990s resulted in the recovery of thousands of lithic artefacts (including handaxes) and large mammal bones from buried late Middle Pleistocene land surfaces. At the time, the excavators regarded the association between the lithics and bones as incidental, since few bones were cut-marked. This, and the fact that gnaw-marked bones were slightly more prevalent, led to the conclusion that carnivores were the primary accumulating agents at the site. This idea was taken a step further when it was suggested that the rarity of cut-marked bones at DFT2 indicates an inability of Middle Pleistocene hominins to procure the carcasses of large mammals on a regular basis, whether by hunting or scavenging. In this chapter I provide an overview of past research at DFT2 and briefly discuss the results of recent follow-up excavations by a team from the University of Cape Town that place hominins at the center of site formation.
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Humans consumed megaherbivores, including proboscideans, throughout the Pleistocene. However, there is a high potential for underappreciation of their relative importance to humans’ economy due to their potential relative underrepresentation in Paleolithic archaeological sites. Relying on our previous work, we discuss the critical importance of large animals in human prehistory. We review four factors that made megaherbivores critically important to humans: high ecological biomass density, lower complexity of acquisition, higher net energetic return, and high fat content. We propose a model that intends to overcome the potential underrepresentation bias by multiplying the MNI (Minimum Number of Individuals) of each animal species by its weight and only then determining the relative biomass abundances. #e next step of the model is the accumulation of the relative biomass abundance, beginning with the largest animal. This step enables a comparison of various assemblages in the relative complexity of acquisition, the level of net energetic return, and the level of fat content in the prey. We successfully test the method on an actualistic case of 61 hunts of the Hadza, where the true number and the MNI are known. We then apply the method to three comparisons between two successive cultural periods each, in the Levant, East Africa and Southern France. We find that there is indeed great potential for the underrepresentation of megaherbivores in the analysis of Paleolithic faunal assemblages. Since the largest animal in our actualistic study was a giraffe, we propose a future avenue of research for better correction of the underrepresentation of elephants, which often have partial to no representation in central base sites.