The Excavations at Ohalo II
The excavations of Ohalo II, situated in northern Israel, provide us with a remarkable insight of Epipaleolithic lifestyles in this area. The site has been dated 18,000 BCE and was first discovered in 1989 when the Sea of Galilee experienced a dramatic drop in its water levels. The site measures around 1,500 square meters.
The site is composed of a tight cluster of several huts built of wood and brush, with a number of external hearths and fire pits, an area where domestic waste was deposited and a single grave which was situated not too far away from the huts. The huts were slightly oval in plan and measured 10 – 13ft across. “The huts had all been burned, the collapsed remains sealing the material that was on the floor when the huts was abandoned” (Watkins, p.207).
One of the huts was thoroughly examined; its walls were made from thick branches of oak, tamarisk and willow. Three floors were located, along with flint tools and food waste.
Near to these huts, a single grave was uncovered. The skeleton was discovered to be male roughly around the age of 35; he was buried on his back, with his hands folded on his chest and his knees folded backwards. Beneath his head, an incised worked bone tool was placed. Analysis of the body indicate that this man had physical disabilities in his later life, which may suggest that he was not able to contribute to his society (Nadel, p.451).
The site is renowned for its excellent preservation of botanical remains. Excavations at Ohalo II revealed more than 30 species of fruit and thousands of carbonised seeds, including wheat and barley. The charcoal remains include large fragments of acorns, broken stems, and many pieces of burnt wood. Some of these wood pieces have measure over 5 cm. The charcoal allowed archaeologists to date the site to around 19,000 BCE.
What is interesting about this site is the fact that no archaeological evidence has shown proof of another existing, or pre-existing, culture in this area. It has been stated by archaeologists that this shows that this is a unicultural site belonging to the end of the local Upper Palaeolithic or the Early Epipaleolithic (Nadel, p.541).
Nadel, D. (1994) 19,000 Year Old Twisted Fibres From Ohalo II, Current Anthropology, The University Press of Chicago on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
Watkins, Trevor (2005) The Human Past – From foragers to Complex Societies in Southwest Asia, Thames & Hudson, London.