Tabun Cave

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Five hand axes from Tabun, excavated 1929-1934, in the British Museum

The Tabun Cave is an excavated cave located at Nahal Me'arot Nature Reserve, Israel and is one of Human Evolution sites at Mount Carmel, which were proclaimed as having universal value by UNESCO in 2012. The cave was occupied intermittently during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic ages (500,000 to around 40,000 years ago). In the course of this period, deposits of sand, silt and clay of up to 25 meters accumulated in the cave. Excavation suggests that it features one of the longest sequences of human occupation in the Levant.

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal male

The earliest and lowest deposits in the cave contain large amounts of sea sand. This, and pollen traces found, suggest a relatively warm climate at the time. 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 then narrower than it is today, and was covered with savannah vegetation. The cave dwellers of that time 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. As tools improved slowly over time, 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 as glaciers formed once more; this change yielded a wider coastal strip, covered by dense forests and swamps. The material remains from the upper strata of the cave are of the Mousterian culture (about 200,000 - 45,000 years ago). Small flint tools made of thin flakes predominate these levels, many produced using the Levallois technique. Tools typical of the Mousterian culture feature elongated points, and include flakes of various shapes used as scrapers, end scrapers and other denticulate tools used for cutting and sawing.

Arthur Jelinek’s 1967-1972 excavations of the cave yielded over 1,900 complete and partial bifaces. The bulk of the biface assemblage can be attributed to the Late Acheulian and Yabrudian industries.[citation needed]

The large number of fallow deer bones 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 may have been herded towards it, and fell into the cave where they were butchered.[citation needed]

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.[1]

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  1. ^ Coppa, A; Grün, R; Stringer, C; Eggins, S; Vargiu, R. (September 2005). (abstract) "Newly recognized Pleistocene human teeth from Tabun Cave, Israel". Journal of Human Evolution 49 (3): 301–15. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.04.005. ISSN 0047-2484. PMID 15964608. 

Coordinates: 32°40′13.80″N 34°57′55.80″E / 32.6705000°N 34.9655000°E / 32.6705000; 34.9655000