Gesher Benot Ya'aqov

an Introduction:

Bibliography
The 1999 destruction of the site!
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The Acheulean site of Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (henceforth G.B.Y.) and the Benot Ya'akov Formation in which it is embedded are located in the northern sector of the Dead Sea Rift, just south of the Hula Valley. The exposures consist of fluvial and limnic sediments which form the littoral facies of the Hula Valley basin fill (Horowitz, 1973). The Quaternary deposits of G.B.Y. have been investigated intermittently since their discovery with in the early 1930's, with studies of geology (Picard, 1963, 1965; Schulman, 1967, 1978 and Horowitz, 1973, 1979), malacofaunal assemblages (Tchernov, 1973); vertebrate paleontology (Hooijer, 1959, 1960); andhominid remains (Geraads and Tchernov, 1983). The lithic assemblage was described by Stekelis (1960) and Gilead (1970, 1968).

The discovery of additional and previously unknown exposures of the Benot Ya'akov Formation in the late 1980s (Goren-Inbar and Belitzky, 1989) provided a unique opportunity to systematically study and better understand the paleoenvironmental background of hominid existence in this region during the Middle Pleistocene. Accordingly, a large-scale multidisciplinary research project has been initiated under the direction of Prof. Na'ama Goren-Inbar. To date, seven field seasons (1989-1991, 1995, 1996, and 2 seasons in 1997) have been carried out. The work has yielded a wealth of new information particularly in light of the waterlogged nature of the site, resulting in the exceptional and unique discovery of organic remains. Highlights of these discoveries, preliminaryresults and interpretations have been published concerned with prehistory, geology, paleontology and paleobotany of the site (Goren-Inbar and Belitzky, 1989; Goren-Inbar et al., 1991; Belitzky et al., 1991; Goren-Inbar et al,1991; Goren-Inbar, 1992; Goren-Inbar, et al., 1992a; Goren-Inbar et al., 1992; Belfer-Cohen and Goren-Inbar, 1994; Goren-Inbar et al., 1994; Goren-Inbar, 1995; Goren-Inbar and Saragusti, 1996).
Viviparus apamea -
The typical Mollusc of the
Benot Ya'aqov formation


Basalt Hand Axe


Basalt Cleaver


Archaeologically, the study of extremely rich assemblages of stone tools have given rise to a better understanding of the abilities of early hominids. Complex technology was identified by the presence of sophisticated technologies - the presence of both Kombewa and Levallois techniques; the latter being its earliest manifestation in the Levant. Also encountered were patterned modes of raw material selection for the modification of specific technological/typological items. Because these complex industrial techniques can be shown to have developed earlier in Africa our evidence is suggestive of hominid radiation from Africa to temperate Eurasia.

A butchered elephant skull found in association with wooden log and basalt artifacts and their interpretation (on exhibition at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem).


The G.B.Y. results, combined with the data from nearby but earlier Ubeidiya, indicate that this radiation took the form of waves of groups issuing out of Africa, each with distinctly different technologies.

The excavations also revealed a unique collection of botanical remains, unknown elsewhere in the Middle East. These include wood, bark, fruits and seeds. Among the more spectacular finds are the oldest polished wood artifact in the world, hundreds of identifiable pieces of wood, the earliest ever reported vine plant including well preserved raisins, as well as the earliest olive (wood and pits). These finds will make it possible to carry out paleoenvironmental reconstruction at a level of detail hitherto impossible to attain.

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