Geoarchaeological investigation of site formation and depositional environments at the Middle Palaeolithic open-air site of `Ein Qashish, Israel

M. C. Stahlschmidt, N. Nir, N. Greenbaum, T. Zilberman, O. Barzilai, R. Ekshtain, A. Malinsky-Buller, E. Hovers, R. Shahack-Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


`Ein Qashish is a Middle Palaeolithic open-air site in the southern Levant, encompassing an excavated area of several hundred square meters and a 4.5-m thick stratigraphic section. Its placement within a fluvial system, combined with the presence of Neanderthal skeletal remains and diverse material culture finds, presents possibilities for understanding human behaviour on the open landscape during the late Middle Palaeolithic. The aim of this study is to investigate the depositional and post-depositional processes at `Ein Qashish, based on the stratigraphic section exposed in the 2013 excavation season. We employed field observations, sedimentology, micromorphology, mineralogy, elemental and isotopic analyses. Our results indicate that the sedimentary sequence, including four archaeological occupation levels, accumulated in a generally low-energy alluvial environment with evidence for syn-depositional localised seasonal water bodies. On-going post-depositional processes related to wetting and drying cycles include shrink-swell and calcite and gypsum pedofeatures. Bone mineral is relatively well preserved. The data suggest limited fluvial and argilliturbation reworking of artefacts, indicating that spatial patterning of lithic and bone assemblages is rather well preserved in some areas. The current analyses do not indicate the presence of combustion features or fire-related residues at the site, although burned lithics occur in low frequencies. The absence of combustion features in the large excavated area and deep stratigraphy contrasts with patterns observed in Middle Palaeolithic cave occupations in the region, adding nuance to a dataset that will enable a better understanding of human activities under sheltered and open-air conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-53
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Open-air sites
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Site formation processes
  • Southern Levant
  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Neanderthals


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