Dr. Yossi Zaidner

Yossi Zaidner

Research interests: Earliest human dispersal out of Africa and the earliest colonization of the Levant; cognitive and motor skills of Early Pleistocene hominins; Earliest lithic technology in the Levant and its place amongst contemporary African technologies; Humans and the environment on the fringe of the Negev desert during the Lower Paleolithic; Development of the laminar and Levallois technologies during the Levantine Middle Paleolithic; Middle Paleolithic cultural transmission, economy and land use.

My interest of the earliest colonization of the Levant goes back to my MA thesis when I studied the lithic assemblage from the Early Pleistocene site of Bizat Ruhama, located on the northern fringe of the Negev. Later, I have conducted excavations at Bizat Ruhama as part of my dissertation, entitled Lithic production strategies at the Early Pleistocene site of Bizat Ruhama, Israel. On basis of the study of the lithic material, experimental knapping and research into the raw material sources I have been able to demonstrate that Bizat Ruhama hominins possessed Oldowan-like technology. In the future we plan to extend the field work in the Northern Negev to the Middle Pleistocene site of Nahal Hesi. The unique circumstances under which two well preserved Lower Paleolithic sites are located in the same area allow studying the cultural and behavioral developments during the earliest human occupation of the Levant, and particularly the Negev, from Early to Middle Pleistocene. Beside the archaeological aspects we are also interested in geochronology and geomorphology of this part of the Northern Negev.

My second research interest concerns Middle Paleolithic cultural transmissions, subsistence and settlement pattern. I was awarded The Lady Davis postdoctoral scholarship in the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in 2011-2012 on the basis of the proposed research entitled Middle Paleolithic settlement patterns and cultural change: a view from Misliya Cave. Under the sponsorship of Profs. Anna Belfer-Cohen and Erella Hovers I am exploring the questions of differences and continuity in technology, culture and settlement pattern between Early (250-170 thousand years ago) and Late Middle Paleolithic (170-45 thousand years ago) in the Levant.

My interest in the Middle Paleolithic was enhanced by the excavations I directed during 2010-2011 at the recently discovered Middle Paleolithic site of Nesher-Ramle. The salvage excavations on site revealed a unique, eight-meters-thick open-air Mousterian sequence in previously unknown settings. The site was dated to 170-70 thousand years ago and is the earliest known and the only deeply stratified open-air Middle Paleolithic site in the Mediterranean zone of the Levant. Studied by a multidisciplinary team of scholars from different institutes in Israel and abroad, the site provides a vast amount of data on technology, paleoecology, exploitation of faunal resources, the use of fire and the spatial organization of the Middle Paleolithic hominins in the open-air context throughout the second half of the Middle Paleolithic.