Salvage excavations led by Dr. Yossi Zaidner of the University of Haifa’s Zinman Institute of Archaeology uncovered a unique site that combined cave-living with open-air settlement. In a pit about 100 feet deep and 300 feet wide, great quantities of auroch bones (an extinct type of wild cattle) were discovered along with the bones of rhinoceros, horses, fallow deer, gazelles and land turtles.
The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.
“The discovery was a complete surprise to us, and we’re still not certain what the site was used for—perhaps for hunting, perhaps as a meeting place. Another avenue of investigation is that the pit might have been used as a giant trap,” Zaidner told Haaretz.
This rare prehistoric site dates to the Middle Paleolithic period (from 250,000 years to about 40,000 years ago). Associated with the hunter-gatherer Mousterian culture, the site is among the oldest human settlements discovered in the Middle East.
Zaidner and his colleagues published their findings in the Journal of Human Evolution.