Tabun Cave located at Mount Carmel, Israel, was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic ages (half a million to some 40,000 years ago). In the course of this extremely long period of time, deposits of sand, silt and clay of up to 25 meters accumulated in the cave. Excavation proved that it has one of the longest sequences of human occupation in the Levant.
The earliest deposits contain large amounts of sea sand. This, and pollen traces found, suggest a relatively warm climate. The melting glaciers which covered large parts of the globe caused the sea level to rise and the Mediterranean coastline to recede. The Coastal Plain was narrower than it is today, and was covered with savannah vegetation. The cave dwellers used handaxes of flint or limestone for killing animals (gazelle, hippopotamus, rhinoceros and wild cattle which roamed the Coastal Plain) and for digging out plant roots. The tools improved slowly over a period of tens of thousands of years. The handaxes became smaller and better shaped and scrapers, made of thick flakes chipped off flint cores, were probably used for scraping meat off bones and for processing animal skins.
The upper levels in the Tabun Cave consist mainly of clay and silt, indicating that a colder, more humid climate prevailed when glaciers formed once more; this caused the Mediterranean Sea level to drop some 100 meters, to its present level. It also produced a wider coastal strip, covered by dense forests and swamps. Jelinek’s 1967-1972 excavations of Tabun Cave yielded over 1,900 complete and partial bifaces. These bifaces come from a series of beds but the bulk of the assemblage can be attributed to the Late Acheulian and Yabrudian industries.
The material remains from the upper strata in the Tabun Cave are of the Mousterian culture (about 200,000 - 45,000 years ago). Small flint tools, made of thin flakes, predominate here, many produced by the Levallois technique: a method of carefully trimming the flint core before the desired shape of the flake is struck off. Tools typical of this culture are elongated points, flakes of various shapes used as scrapers, end scrapers and many denticulate tools used for cutting and sawing.
The diet of the people who manufactured and used these tools consisted of fruit, seeds, roots and leaves with a supplement of meat - gazelle, fallow deer, roe deer, and wild boar. The large number of bones of fallow deer found in the upper layers of the Tabun Cave may be due to the chimney-like opening in the back of the cave which functioned as a natural trap. The animals were probably herded towards it and fell into the cave where they were butchered.
The Tabun Cave contains a Neanderthal-type female, dated to about 120,000 years ago. It is one of the most ancient human skeletal remains found in Israel.
Flake Production at the Lower Palaeolithic Site of Holon (Israel): Implications for the Origin of the Levallois Method
Sep 01, 2000; The transition from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Middle Palaeolithic in the Levant is characterized by the widespread adoption...