Three-dimensional Distribution of Minerals in the Sediments of Hayonim Cave, Israel: Diagenetic Processes and Archaeological Implications


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The mineral components of the sediments that accumulate in an archaeological site constitute a potentially rich source of information on the diagenesis, and in turn the archaeology of the site. This detailed three-dimensional study of the mineral assemblages in mainly the Mousterian sediments of Hayonim Cave incorporates more than 2100 infrared analyses performed on-site during the excavation, as well as diverse analyses in the laboratory. Three major mineral assemblages are identified: the calcite-dahllite (CD) assemblage, the assemblage comprising mainly montgomeryite, leucophosphite and siliceous aggregates (LMVS), and a highly altered sediment in which the clays have broken down and silica was released. The boundaries between these assemblages were mapped in detail. The overall picture is one of extreme heterogeneity with sharp variations occurring over distances of a few centimetres. The relation between the CD and LMVS assemblages shows that it is a product of post-depositional diagenesis, whereas the altered clay assemblage formed beneath an erosional unconformity. The CD and LMVS assemblages were derived primarily from an accumulation several metres thick of ash deposits produced by humans. Ash is thus shown to be a major component of the sediments of this cave. The distribution of the CD assemblage reflects to a large extent the locations of two active springs/seepages in the cave. The distribution of the CD assemblage also faithfully maps the distribution of bones in the cave, showing that their distribution is a function of preservational conditions and not human activities (Stineret al ., 2001). The conditions that produced the erosional unconformity, also resulted in severe alteration of the clays and other mineral components of these sediments. The erosion process and the fact that the thickness of this altered zone decreases towards the centre of the cave, indicates that the diagenetic driving force was probably climatic. The three-dimensional distributions of the mineral assemblages have a direct


Prehistory, Cave Sediments, Minerals, Ash, Mousterian

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Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 29, no. 11 (2002).