Institute of Archaeology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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The Neanderthal “revolution”

Botanical remains are rarely preserved at Paleolithic sites, but in some cases their presence can be detected through the presence of phytoliths (silica cells formed in the plants various organs). A phytolith study carried out at the 70,000-55,000-year-old Neanderthal site of Amud Cave (Eastern Galilee, Israel), excavated under the direction of Erella Hovers (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Yoel Rak (Tel-Aviv University) and William H. Kimbel (The Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University) showed that a variety of plant families were used at the site. Whereas wood was used for fuel, the occurrence of phytoliths from palm and fig trees may indicate their use for food and bedding. The presence of phytoliths of mature seeds of grassy plants implies that a broad spectrum of plants and plant parts may have been used as foods during the Late Middle Paleolithic.  This suggests that the broad spectrum revolution, previously thought to have been taken place at the close of the Pleistocene (around 13 thousand years ago) by human populations at the threshold of agriculture, may have roots in deeper time.

Find out more: Journal of Archaeological Science 29:703-719