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Scientific Projects:

Lithic Analysis

Lithic Use-Wear Studies

Faunal Analysis

Micromammal Studies

Dating Techniques

Speliology and Cave Geology

Geoarchaeology / Formation Processes

Isotopic Studies
of Lithic Procurement Strategies

Climatic and Environmental Studies



Faunal Analysis

A sample of 1780 identified specimens (NISP) obtained from the 2001 excavation of Qesem Cave indicates that the great majority of the faunal remains are from larger vertebrates, mainly fallow deer (Dama, large-bodied form), along with some remains of aurochs (Bos), horse (Equus, caballine type), wild pig (Sus), tortoise (Testudo), and rarely red deer (Cervus). These faunal remains bear many traces of hominid activity, ranging from cut marks and other kinds of tool damage to burning from fire. Only one possible case of carnivore gnawing damage was found. Weathering damage, associated with long surface exposure times, is rare (0-2% of NISP), suggesting consistent protection by the cave roof and/or relatively rapid burial.

The orientations and anatomical placements of cut marks (mostly short, scattered, diagonal scars on bones associated with substantial muscle masses) indicate redundant, simple flesh cutting and removal activities. This pattern suggests a heavy emphasis on meat and connective tissue removal from bone surfaces, and probably also a lack of concern for the long-term performance of tool edges. Cut marks occur at between 10 and 19% of vertebrate NISP, and cone fractures indicative of marrow extraction from limb bones and mandibles occur at 23-38% of NISP.

It is significant that cut marks and cone fractures are twice as or more abundant on the Qesem Cave ungulate remains than in later Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic faunas studied in the Levant. The prevalence of cone fractures in this site is consistent with the high incidence of major limb bones. The high incidence of cut marks on long bone surfaces is consistent with the results from tool use-wear and technological analyses.

A related observation concerns the pattern of body part representation for common ungulate prey. Deer remains in the upper part of the Qesem sequence are confined to limb bones and head parts (without antlers) almost exclusively; there are almost no vertebrae, ribs, pelvis, or foot bones. In the lower part of the Qesem sequence the situation is somewhat different in that modest numbers of the latter suite of elements are represented, though still under-represented relative to head and limb segments. The dominance of head parts in particular is not explained by differential preservation of tooth enamel versus bone tissues, since the skeletal element counts for head parts are based on bony cranial features only. In light of the very good preservation of the Qesem faunal assemblages, and the use of methods designed to maximize element counts from highly fragmented material, the anatomical patterns observed for medium-sized ungulates in Qesem Cave indicate that hominids were quite selective about the body parts they transported to the cave, presumably following initial field processing of the carcasses elsewhere.