Mousterian Abu Sif points: Foraging tools of the Early Middle Paleolithic site of Misliya Cave, Mount Carmel, Israel

Iris Groman-Yaroslavski*, Yossi Zaidner, Mina Weinstein-Evron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Abu Sif points are the fossile directeur of the Levantine Early Middle Paleolithic (EMP; ca. 250-160 ka ago). At Misliya Cave these elongated retouched artifacts represent one of the major elements in the toolkit. In the past, Abu Sif points were interpreted as weapons or as multifunctional knives, and were considered to indicate incipient hafting techniques. The recent study is the first attempt to reconstruct the function of Abu Sif points by applying thorough use-wear analysis. Our investigations show that Abu Sif points were used for various functions. No evidence for their use as weapons was found. The Abu Sif points were held by hand, wrapped with hide, or hafted for working mainly plant materials, but also antler and dried clay. The use of these materials could be related to cutting herbaceous plants for their grains, collection of wood and bush branches for fire, or other activities such as construction, beddings and the manufacture of objects made of various materials. The functional advantage of Abu Sif points is their strong resistant edges and pointed tip that enabled use for different purposes such as cutting, scraping, engraving, and piercing. The current study indicate that large retouched points that began to appear in the archaeological record with the onset of the Middle Paleolithic are not necessary linked with dramatic changes in hunting strategies. Rather, their occurrence may signify a general change in technological organization toward more curated tool-kits that contain multifunctional tools with resistant and durable edges. Our first ever comprehensive use-wear analysis of Abu Sif points found almost no indication of their having being used as spear points, or even as tools somehow related to hunting (for example, butchering at the kill site). Rather our results all point in the direction of their use in foraging and domestic activities, more related to the acquisition of vegetal foods as well as their use in performing craft-related activities.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)312-323
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Abu Sif points
  • Early Middle Paleolithic
  • Levant
  • Misliya Cave
  • Multifunctional knives
  • Use-wear analysis


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