New findings on Neanderthals discovered in Ein Qashish archeological site

The Neanderthal man who lived in the Ein Qashish archeological site, 10 kilometers southeast of Haifa, lived a long time in the same open-air location in order to maintain a wide range of activities.

These impressive findings were revealed in a scientific article recently published in the journal PLOS One, which describes the results of the excavation conducted by an Israeli team of researchers from the Hebrew University together with the Israel Antiquities Authority and researchers from Germany.

In the article, the researchers explained, that the information that exists today about humans living in the Levant during prehistoric times is taken from studies and excavations conducted in caves. Open sites were less explored in the area. The excavation at Ein Qashish revealed an open site that allows archaeologists to outline a picture of life in the settlement, including when the Neanderthals were living there and how they used the site. The researchers, led by Prof. Erella Hovers, an expert in Prehistoric Archaeology at the Institute of Archeology of the Hebrew University, together with Dr. Ravid Ekstein excavated some 670 square meters at the site digging through thousands of years of accumulated sediment near the banks of the river Kishon to a depth of 4.5 meters.

The site was used for a variety of activities, including hunting. While the caves that were inhabited at the time by the Neanderthals had little evidence of the exploitation of large animals, many of their remains were found in Ein Qashish. The animal bones found in the excavation attest to the exploitation of a wide variety of animals from several habitats from the vicinity of the site. Another activity that took place at the site was to flint stones into tools intended for a variety of activities, as opposed to short-lived firing sites, where cutting is aimed at a particular activity, such as hunting.

The site dates back to some 50,000-60,000 years ago, the prehistoric period known as the Middle Paleolithic.

 Shell of  type Hexaplex Trunculus Photo credit: Clara Amit

While it is clear that Neanderthals lived both in caves and in open sites, the researchers could for the first time link several different settlements over time to the skeletal findings of the Neanderthal man. The site contained evidence of three individuals - a fragment of a skull, a tooth, and a number of foot bones and vertebrae. Two of the details were definitely identified as Neanderthals.

"The archeological excavation at Ein Qashish created a rare opportunity for researchers to examine various aspects of the lives of the Neanderthals in the open landscape and a more complete understanding of the use of the ancient area, the manner in which ancient people managed the site and understanding the changes over time between the various settlements" Dr. Ekstein said.

 A number of unique findings were found at the site, including a deer's horn, which is relatively rare in all sites of the same period. The horn may have been used as a soft mace in the cutting process of the flint tools, mainly for tools produced in a technique that requires a high degree of skill and pedantry. Another unique finding is a sequence of flint artifacts that were slanted one after the other and abandoned in the same place and clearly show the sequence of the ancient chisels.

 This sequence, and the total flint tools (12,000 items), allow the researchers a glimpse into the brain of the incision. Finding the items of the same sequence of collisions at the same place allows the researchers to reconstruct the sequence, and to understand what the targets were, what items they wanted to produce, and what methods they chose to produce. Other unique finds are small lumps of pigments, a large seashell brought from the coast (about 10 km), and of course the remains of the Neanderthals.

 These findings further intensify the question marks surrounding the disappearance of Neanderthals from our region.