Anthropology On the dig Staff News Publications Heritage Sponsors Welcome to Misliya Cave

Mount Carmel, Israel

Lithic Industries Human Use of Fire Dating Geoarcheology Geophysical Survey Speleology Faunal Remains

Misliya Cave is located on the western slopes of Mount' -Carmel, slightly to the south of Nahal (Wadi) Sefunim, at an elevation of ca. 90m, some 12 km south of Haifa.
Situated about 7 km north of Nahal Me'arot (Wadi el-Mughara) and the caves of Tabun, Jamal and Shkul (Garrod and Bate 1937; Jelinek et al. 1973; Weinstein-Evron and Tsatskin 1995; Zaidner et al. 2005) it was found to contain rich Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) and Lower Paleolithic (Acheulo-Yabrudian) layers (Weinstein-Evron et al. 2003; Zaidner and Weinstein-Evron 2006).

Today the site appears to be a rock shelter or an overhang, carved into theFigure 1 rudistic reefal cliff. However, its form, together with remnants of enclosing walls, the ancient flowstones and the numerous boulders along the slope, suggests that it is a large collapsed cave. The cliff at Misliya, facing W/SW, is about 17-20 m high.
Figure 1The anthropogenic usage of Misliya Cave is closely associated with ancient caves at the cliff face and their gradual collapse during the retreat of the cliff. The human occupation apparently occurred before, during and after some major collapse events, which occurred through the mid-late Pleistocene. Some of the collapsed debris appears to have rolled some distance down the talus at the foot of the cliff.

Strongly cemented archaeological sediments (breccia) are found on three terrace-like surfaces at the base of the cliff and all slope gently to the west (henceforth Upper, Middle and Lower Figure 1Terraces).  Vertical natural exposures within the breccia separate the terraces. Their relationships to the various stages of cave collapse are not fully understood. The surface of the Lower Terrace is located about 10 m below that of the Upper Terrace. 

Figure 1In the eastern part of the Upper Terrace, brecciated layers pass laterally into softer sediments, forming an area of about 15m², which is more amenable to excavation. Within the main excavated area on the Upper Terrace, both the upper part of the breccia and the soft sediments contain abundant lithics from the Levatine Mousterian of Tabun D type together with a rich faunal assemblage (Weinstein-Evron et al. 2003; Bar-Oz et al.  2005; Yeshurun et al., 2007).

Figure 1The bottom of the Middle Paleolithic layers was so far attained in a limited area where the soft sediments were found lying above an old rockfall containing a mixture of Acheulo - Yabrudian and Mousterian finds, which yielded the largest sample of handaxes from the site (Zaidner and Weinstein -Evron 2006). 

While the cultural affinity of the finds on the Middle Terrace could not have been determined to date, Middle Paleolithic layers cover an extensive Figure 1surface of the Upper Terrace, most notably in its central/northern portion.
The Lower Terrace, where Acheulo-Yabrudain finds constituted the only existing cultural unit (Weinstein-Evron et al. 2003), yielded a small lithic assemblage rich in handaxes and Acheulo-Yabrudian side-scrapers.

Digging into the breccia was sometimes devastating since the extractionFigure 1 of the bones and lithics was almost impossible.
This is especially true at the Lower Terrace, where we excavated about 2.5 cubic meters of the hardest breccia at the site. So far this is only a place at the site that yielded sterile Acheulo-Yabrudian assemblage.

Figure 1The digging of breccia layers was executed by electric hummers, hummers and chisels. The extracted chunks of breccia were then carefully broken at the lab to extract lithic and bones.

Although we faced some difficulties excavating breccia layers, the resultsFigure 1 were rewarding. Breccia was found to be rich in bones and lithics and raised some challenging questions, for example what processes are responsible for creating the bones and lithics pockets that occur in various lacations at the site. 

Figure 1Unlike difficulties experienced facing the breccia, digging of the soft sediments is really enjoyable. The state of preservation of bones and lithics is trully amazing. The artifacts appear as dense living floorsFigure 1 which also include rich evidence of use of fire. Refitting of fire-exploded artifacts together with preservation of hearths provides evidence for in-situ preservation of human living floors in soft sediments area.


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