Hearth-side socioeconomics, hunting and paleoecology during the late Lower Paleolithic at Qesem Cave, Israel


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February 2011


The late Lower Paleolithic archaeofaunas of Qesem Cave in the southern Levant span 400–200 ka and associate with Acheulo-Yabrudian (mainly Amudian) industries. The large mammals are exclusively Eurasian in origin and formed under relatively cool, moist conditions. The zooarchaeological findings testify to large game hunting, hearth-centered carcass processing and meat sharing during the late Lower Paleolithic, not unlike the patterns known from Middle and Upper Paleolithic caves in the region. Well-defined hearth features are rarely preserved in Qesem Cave, but the heterogeneous distributions of burned bones indicate areas of frequent hearth rebuilding throughout the occupation sequence. The hominins delayed consumption of high quality body parts until they could be moved to the cave, where hearths were hubs of processing activities and social interaction. Paradoxically, the cut marks on the Qesem bones are both more abundant and more randomly oriented than those observed in Middle and Upper Paleolithic cases in the Levant. These results suggest that several individuals were directly involved in cutting meat from the bones and that the social mechanics of meat sharing during the late Lower Paleolithic at Qesem Cave differed from those typical of both the Middle and Upper Paleolithic in the region.


Acheulo-Yabrudian, Amudian, Zooarchaeology, Taphonomy, Site Formation Processes, Levant, Tool Marks, Fire, Mammal Community Turnover, Social Brain Hypothesis

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Journal of Human Evolution, Vol. 60, no. 2 (2011-02-01).