Symbolic emblems of the Levantine Aurignacians as a regional entity identifier (Hayonim Cave, Lower Galilee, Israel)

José Miguel Tejero*, Anna Belfer-Cohen, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Vitaly Gutkin, Rivka Rabinovich

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The Levantine Aurignacian is a unique phenomenon in the local Upper Paleolithic sequence, showing greater similarity to the West European classic Aurignacian than to the local Levantine archaeological entities preceding and following it. Herewith we highlight another unique characteristic of this entity, namely, the presence of symbolic objects in the form of notched bones (mostly gazelle scapulae) from the Aurignacian levels of Hayonim Cave, Lower Galilee, Israel. Through both macroscopic and microscopic analyses of the items, we suggest that they are not mere cut marks but rather are intentional (decorative?) human-made markings. The significance of this evidence for symbolic behavior is discussed in its chrono-cultural and geographical contexts. Notched bones are among the oldest symbolic expressions of anatomically modern humans. However, unlike other Paleolithic sites where such findings were reported in single numbers, the number of these items recovered at Hayonim Cave is sufficient to assume they possibly served as an emblem of the Levantine Aurignacian.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5145-5150
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - 15 May 2018

Bibliographical note

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  • Bone tools
  • Human symbolic behavior
  • Levantine Aurignacian
  • Near East
  • Upper Paleolithic


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