Hunted gazelles evidence cooling, but not drying, during the Younger Dryas in the southern Levant

Gideon Hartman*, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Alex Brittingham, Leore Grosman, Natalie D. Munro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The climatic downturn known globally as the Younger Dryas (YD; ∼12,900-11,500 BP) has frequently been cited as a prime mover of agricultural origins and has thus inspired enthusiastic debate over its local impact. This study presents seasonal climatic data from the southern Levant obtained from the sequential sampling of gazelle tooth carbonates from the Early and Late Natufian archaeological sites of Hayonim and Hilazon Tachtit Caves (western Galilee, Israel). Our results challenge the entrenched model that assumes that warm temperatures and high precipitation are synonymous with climatic amelioration and cold and wet conditions are combined in climatic downturns. Enamel carbon isotope values from teeth of human-hunted gazelle dating before and during the YD provide a proxy measure for water availability during plant growth. They reveal that although the YD was cooler, it was not drier than the preceding Bølling-Allerød. In addition, the magnitude of the seasonal curve constructed from oxygen isotopes is significantly dampened during the YD, indicating that cooling was most pronounced in the growing season. Cool temperatures likely affected the productivity of staple wild cereal resources. We hypothesize that human groups responded by shifting settlement strategies-increasing population mobility and perhaps moving to the warmer Jordan Valley where wild cereals were more productive and stable.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3997-4002
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - 12 Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: This study was supported by the University of Connecticut (G.H.) and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF 459/11 to L.G.). Archaeological sample export permit for detractive analysis was granted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (No. 14114).


  • Natufian
  • Paleoclimate
  • Stable isotopes
  • δC
  • δO


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