Persistent Neanderthal occupation of the open-air site of ‘Ein Qashish, Israel
Over the last two decades, much of the recent efforts dedicated to the Levantine Middle Paleolithic has concentrated on the role of open-air sites in the settlement system in the region. Here focus on the site of ‘Ein Qashish as a cases study. Located in present-day northern Israel, the area of this site is estimated to have been >1300 m2, of which ca. 670 were excavated. The site is located at the confluence of the Qishon stream with a small tributary running off the eastern flanks of the Mt. Carmel. At the area of this confluence, water channels and alluvial deposits created a dynamic depositional environment. Four Archaeological Units were identified in a 4.5-m thick stratigraphic sequence were dated by Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to between—71 and 54 ka, and probably shorter time span–~70-~60 ka. Here we present the diverse material culture remains from the site (lithics, including refitted sequences; modified limestone pieces; molluscs; faunal remains) against their changing paleogeographic backdrop. Skeletal evidence suggests that these remains were associated with Neanderthals. The large-scale repeated accumulation of late Middle Paleolithic remains in the same place on the landscape provides a unique opportunity to address questions of occupation duration and intensity in open-air sites. We find that each occupation was of ephemeral nature, yet presents a range of activities, suggesting that the locale has been used as a generalized residential site rather than specialized task-specific ones. This role of ‘Ein Qashish did not change through time, suggesting that during the late Middle Paleolithic settlement system in this part of the southern Levant were stable.