Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site – A mammoth skeleton at a rare and controversial Plio-Pleistocene site along the mammal migration route out of Africa

Rivka Rabinovich*, Gadi Herzlinger, Rani Calvo, Florent Rivals, Steffen Mischke, Gali Beiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Early sites along the Dead Sea Transform (southern Levant), among them the Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site, are key points in understanding hominin and mammal migration out of Africa and into Eurasia. The late Prof. Tchernov had begun an intensive campaign to expose the faunal remains at the site, but unfortunately was unable to conclude his study. Based on interim reports and geomorphological descriptions, we were aware of numerous elephant remains found and left in situ. The Erq el Ahmar Elephant Site is a controversial site. There are those who see it as the earliest Pleistocene hominin site in the area, while others consider it a paleontological site without any hominin involvement. We returned to the site to try to resolve this controversy. In a systematic excavation, we succeeded in exposing the previously uncovered elements, exposed more material and currently better understand the deposition sequence. However, the task was very challenging, since the skeletal elements were very fragile and required careful exposure and conservation, both in situ and in the laboratory, before they could be studied. A series of elements were found partially superimposed. Several elements of the skull, an almost complete tusk, vertebrae, ribs, a scapula and limb bones were found. Mammoth diagnostic traits were identified in the teeth and tusk. However, very few skeletons of early mammoths are known from the region. Have we exposed the most complete Mammuthus rumanus skeleton? Tooth microwear indicates leaf-browsing dietary traits, similar to that of other M. rumanus of this period. In addition, the recent excavations have revealed the potential of the site in understanding the evolution and dispersal of proboscidean species out of Africa during the Plio-Pleistocene, adding another focal point to the southern Levant along this route.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number105885
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume221
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our thanks to the volunteers that participated in the excavations, without whom we could not have conducted them under undervalue conditions of heat and humidity. Special thanks to: Tiki Steiner and Rebecca Biton for the help in the field and in the lab; to Hila May who helped in analyzing the CT scans, done at The Carmel Medical Center Haifa. Amizur Boldin followed closely the excavation and was of great help through the years. Funding sources were: Faculty consolidate grant, Irene Levi Sala Care Archaeological Foundation, Stekelis Foundation and Ruth Amiran Grant. Special thanks to Henk Mienis and Yael Leshno from the Hebrew University who identified the mollusks and to Yuval Goren from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who analysed the tusk. We would like to thank our hosts at Kibutz Gesher and Kibutz Sha'ar Hagolan, in particular Yuval Varulkar, Hava Shalviki, Omri Shalmon and Nirit Bagron for the hospitality and help in every aspect. Special thanks to Assaf Uzan who took the photographs.

Funding Information:
We would like to express our thanks to the volunteers that participated in the excavations, without whom we could not have conducted them under undervalue conditions of heat and humidity. Special thanks to: Tiki Steiner and Rebecca Biton for the help in the field and in the lab; to Hila May who helped in analyzing the CT scans, done at The Carmel Medical Center Haifa. Amizur Boldin followed closely the excavation and was of great help through the years. Funding sources were: Faculty consolidate grant, Irene Levi Sala Care Archaeological Foundation, Stekelis Foundation and Ruth Amiran Grant. Special thanks to Henk Mienis and Yael Leshno from the Hebrew University who identified the mollusks and to Yuval Goren from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev who analysed the tusk. We would like to thank our hosts at Kibutz Gesher and Kibutz Sha'ar Hagolan, in particular Yuval Varulkar, Hava Shalviki, Omri Shalmon and Nirit Bagron for the hospitality and help in every aspect. Special thanks to Assaf Uzan who took the photographs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Dispersal
  • Evolution
  • Mammoth
  • Plio-pleistocene
  • Southern levant

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