The exploitation of plant resources by Neanderthals in Amud Cave (Israel): The evidence from phytolith studies

Marco Madella*, Martin K. Jones, Paul Goldberg, Yuval Goren, Erella Hovers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


The depositional environments of Amud Cave indicate that phytolith assemblages retrieved from the cave's sediments are an integral part of the Middle Palaeolithic sequence. As such, they provide direct evidence for plant use. The Amud Neanderthals emphasized both wood and grass exploitation. Ligneous parts of trees and shrubs were used mainly for fuel. Herbaceous plants were used for bedding, possibly fuel, and for food. There is clear and repetitive evidence for the exploitation of mature grass panicles, inferred to have been collected for their seeds. These findings suggest that, as with the pattern recently discerned for faunal resources, a broad spectrum of plants has been exploited from at least the end of the Middle Palaeolithic. Phytolith analysis now provides a tool for testing models explaining subsistence and mobility patterns during the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic and for better understanding the role of vegetal resources in shaping these patterns.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)703-719
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Field work at the Amud Cave was supported by the L. S. B. Leakey foundation, the Irene Levi-Sala CARE foundation, the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, and the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University. The phytoliths study was made possible by a grant from the European Union to the senior author, within the framework of the TMR project ‘‘Early Human Migrations’’ and a travel grant from the Academic Study Group (UK). The phytolith analysis was conducted in the Department of Structural Biology of the Weizmann Institute of Science. We are especially grateful to Naama Goren-Inbar and to Steve Weiner for their help and support in both logistical and scientific aspects of this project.

Funding Information:
The micromorphological study of the Amud sediments was supported by the Irene Levi-Sala CARE foundation and the Centre for Collaboration between Natural Sciences and Archaeology on behalf of the Weizmann Institute of Science. The final writing of this article was made possible by a travel grant to EH from the joint exchange program between the Israel Academy of Sciences and the British Royal Society. Mark Moore extended his generous hospitality to EH during her stay in Cambridge.


  • Amud Cave
  • Broad spectrum
  • Economy
  • Levant
  • Neanderthal
  • Phytoliths
  • Plant resources


Dive into the research topics of 'The exploitation of plant resources by Neanderthals in Amud Cave (Israel): The evidence from phytolith studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this