Pleistocene amphibians and squamates from the Upper Jordan Rift Valley, Gesher Benot Ya'aqov and Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet (MIS 20-18 and MIS 4/3)

Rebecca Biton*, Salvador Bailon, Naama Goren-Inbar, Gonen Sharon, Rivka Rabinovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The Acheulian site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY) and the Mousterian site of Nahal Mahanayeem Outlet (NMO) are open-air sites situated on the bank of the Upper Jordan River at its southern estuary in the Hula Valley, Israel. Both sites were deposited on the shore of a paleo-Lake Hula, a shallow body of water that persisted throughout a considerable part of the Pleistocene as a fresh-water lake. Most of the amphibian and squamate taxa recovered are aquatic species related to the natural biota of the Hula Valley, alongside some terrestrial species. Twelve amphibian and squamate taxa were recovered at each site. Most of the species recovered from the archaeological contexts do not differ from extant Hula Valley amphibians and squamates, with the exception of a varanid (Varanus sp.) recovered at GBY and the possible presence of the eastern fourlined ratsnake (cf. Elaphe sauromates). The snake's presence could indicate slightly cooler conditions during human occupation at NMO. A noteworthy continuity in species presence is observed throughout the many archaeological horizons as well as in comparison to the current Hula basin fauna. This suggests a surprising similarity in environmental conditions over a significant portion of the Quaternary in this region.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)345-366
Number of pages22
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Some ideas in the present article were presented at the first meeting of the ICAZ Microvertebrate Working Group Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) in 2016. The CARE Archaeological Foundation (2014), the Ruth Amiran Fund for Archaeological Research in Eretz Israel (2015/2016), the EU SYNTHESYS project (FR-TAF-1986), and the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities provided RB with financial support for the research. The GBY study was carried out with the support of a grant awarded by the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 300/06) to the Center of Excellence for the project titled "The Effect of Climate Change on the Environment and Hominins of the Upper Jordan Valley between ca. 800 ka and 700 ka ago as a Basis for Prediction of Future Scenarios" and an Israel Science Foundation grant to NG-I (grant no. 27/12). Field and laboratory work at NMO were supported by grants from the CARE Foundation (2008, 2012, 2014), the Leakey Foundation (2007, 2009), the National Geographic Society (8680-09), the Wenner-Gren Foundation (grant no. 7986), and in particular by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 645-09). The authors wish to thank H.-A. Blain and an anonymous reviewer for their valuable and helpful comments and the following people for their help: A. Uzan for photographing the specimens and compiling the figures; Esther Lachman and G. Beiner for editing the manuscript; O. Kolodny, T. Fried, and R. Ganc for helping with the comparative collections; Y. Leshno for statistics advice; T. Oron, Y. Artzi, B. Shacham, S. Gafny, O. Steinitz, R. Talbi, and D. Hawlena for their help with data and for providing insights into the current Hula Valley herpetofauna.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 University of Washington. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • Amphibians
  • Hula Valley
  • Pleistocene
  • Quaternary
  • Southern Levant
  • Squamates
  • Upper Jordan River


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