Geoarchaeological context of the later phases of Mousterian occupation (80-115ka) at Nesher Ramla, Israel: Soil erosion, deposition and pedogenic processes

Alexander Tsatskin*, Yossi Zaidner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


A new open-air Mousterian site was found in karst depression on hilly limestone terrain of central Israel at Nesher Ramla. The paper highlights the complex history of depositional, post-depositional and pedogenic processes that took place at the later phases of Mousterian site formation during the OSL age interval between ~80 and ~115ka. The Upper sequence is divided into Unit I and Unit II, both comprising rather uniform calcareous, gravel-rich, silty clay deposits. Gravel largely consists of calcrete (Nari) and possibly some chalky limestone. Unit I is darker, partially decarbonated, magnetically enhanced, and shows microscopic features of shrink-swell process analogous to Vertisols. Mousterian artifacts, chunks of ochre and animal bones are scarce in this unit. Unit II has increased gravel, magnetic susceptibility values drop, and humus and carbonate content both increase. Mousterian artifact density significantly increases in the middle part of Unit II. Lithologic characteristics, thin sections and SEM/EDS all indicate that the Upper sequence originated from periodic erosion of loess-derived soils developed upon chalky hillslopes intermittent with more stable periods when hominins occupied the site. The proposed model relates the Upper sequence to heterogeneous anthropogenic pedosediments with high proportions of eroded soil materials and signs of in situ pedogenesis. Apart from singular mm-sized pyrogenic features, remnants of bedded combustion features in the Upper sequence are lacking, probably because of pedogenic and diagenetic alterations on the site.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)103-114
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 8 May 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The laboratory work was generously funded by Bouky Boaz Management Projects & Promotions Ltd . The paper is based on the talk presented at the International workshop “Opportunities, Problems and Future Directions in the Study of Open-Air Middle Paleolithic Sites”. We thank Stas Mumladze for assistance in field work and in laboratory. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments to the earlier draft of the manuscript.


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