From June to September 2004 the fourth season of salvage excavations was conducted at the Lower Paleolithic site of the Revadim Quarry (Permit No. A-4191; map ref. NIG 182599–183199/63220–80; OIG 132599–133199/13220–80), prior to the reutilization of the quarry. The excavation, on behalf of the Antiquities Authority, was directed by O. Marder, I. Milevski and R. Rabinovich, with the assistance of R. Lupu (directors’ assistant and photography), Z. Matskevich, R. Ekshtain, R. Avissar, V. Golsberg, Y. Ashkenasi and D. Eisenberg-Degen (field supervision), N. Gubenko (registration), H. Lavi and R. Abu-Halaf (administration), A. Hajian, V. Essman and V. Pirsky (surveying), E. Weiss (archaeobotany), R. Barkai, A. Buller-Malinsky, N. Solodenko and T. Rosenberg (flint-assemblage analyses), O. Ackermann (geomorphology), R. Shahack-Gross (mircromorphology), M. Bar-Matthews, N. Porat, H. Valladas, N. Mercier and C. Falgueres (dating methods), H. Ron (Paleomagnetic analyses) and L. Zeiger (flint drawing). Further assistance was extended by P. Nahshoni, D. Varga and D. Nahlieli of the IAA southern district, A. Giladi who discovered the site and students and volunteers from Israel and abroad, as well as laborers from Project 500 and the Single-Mothers project.
The site is located on the southern coastal plain, 1.5 km north of Qibbuz Revadim and 40 km southeast of Tel Aviv (Fig. 1). The area is characterized by undulating topography, sloping northward to the nearby confluence of Nahal Timna and one of its tributaries.
Situated on a hillock, at an elevation of 71–73 m above sea level, the initial use of the Revadim Quarry was during the British Mandate, extracting sand for construction. The quarry was since deserted until the 1990s, when its exploitation was revived. During these quarrying activities, lithic and faunal remains were exposed.
The geological sequence exposed at the quarry section is c. 20 m thick and its upper part is composed of alternating layers (paleosols), including Dark Brown Grumusol (Unit 1), Quartzic Gray-Brown Paleosol (Unit 2) and Quartzic Sand and Red Hamra-Husmas (Unit 3; Fig. 2).
The most ancient living surface was located on top of the unconformity surface, separating Unit 3 from Unit 2. The ancient topography of the site was buried more than 5 m below the current surface. It was more undulating in the northern part of the site, dissected by rills and gullies, including vertical collapsed depressions (diam. 0.5 m) that were created by pipe flow processes and functioned as artifact trap areas. In the southern part of the site Unit 2 was located directly above Unit 3 and the contact between these paleosols was relatively regular.
Four seasons of excavations were conducted at the site since 1996 (Mitekufat Haeven 28, 1998:21–54; ESI 20:113*–114*). Two main areas of excavation (A, B) were opened in the first season to salvage the remains found in a collapsing section and to determine the extent of the archaeological deposits. A third excavation area (C) was opened in the second and third seasons (1998–1999). During the 2004 season, work was concentrated in Areas B and C that were substantially enlarged and a fourth area (D) was opened. Furthermore, two trenches (length 12 and 23 m respectively), aiming to correlate the stratigraphy of Areas B and C, were excavated. Altogether, a total of 250 sq m, composed of 170 sq m at the site and c. 80 sq m in the trenches, were investigated.
Area B was divided into three sub-areas, North, Center and South and Area C––into two sub-areas, West and East. The majority of the archaeological remains in Area B was excavated directly on the contact of Unit 3 with Unit 2. Two archaeological layers were discerned (B1 and B2 from top to bottom; Fig. 3). While Layer B1 was very limited in extent, containing a few finds and identified mostly in sub-area North, B2 was a most distinct layer (c. 70 sq m). The greater part of finds in both layers was exposed in horizontal position, whereas the large animal bones were found in pits.
The most complete stratigraphical sequence was encountered in Area C (c. 80 sq m), where five archaeological layers (C1–C5) were identified in sub-Area West (see Fig. 2). Layers C1–C4 were discerned within Unit 2, while Layer C5 was exposed directly on the contact between Units 2 and 3. Layers C2 and C3 (each c. 15–20 cm thick) in sub-areas West and East (Figs. 4, 5) contained the highest density of flint artifacts and bones at the site (c. 150–200 per sq m). Layer C5 apparently correlated with Layer B2.
Flakes formed 90% of the flint-tool assemblage. A small number of core-tools, mainly hand axes and core-choppers, especially in Layers B1, B2 and C5, were also found (Fig. 6). A few spheroids were encountered in Area D. The hand axes were divided into two groups according to their stratigraphic ascription. Those originating from the earlier layers (the majority of the hand axes at the site) are characterized by thick pointed shapes, namely amigdaloids, lanceolates and thick pointed ovates (Fig. 7:1); thin, unpointed forms are rare. The hand axes from the later layers are short and relatively thin. Typologically, the later assemblage is characterized by discoidal forms, mostly irregular in shape with a low level of symmetry (Fig. 7:2). The bifacial shaping is usually partial, showing a low number of scars. In some cases where shaping was more intensive, it was probably performed by large, thick, thinning flakes. An interesting phenomenon is the recycling of hand axes into cores, most common in Area C. The detached pieces constituted the main component of lithic assemblages, wherein tools had a relatively high percentage. The typical tool kit consisted of a large variety of types, including awls, notches, denticulates and scrapers.
Hundreds of animal bones that appeared in all levels of occupation were retrieved from all seasons of excavation. The bones included bovids (Bos primigenius, Gazella gazella), cervids (Dama mesopotamica, Cervus elaphus, Capreolus cf. capreolus), pigs (Sus scrofa), equids, carnivores (Felis silvestris), rodents (Microtus guentheri, Spalax Ehrenbergi), carapace of chelonia and ophidia vertebrates. Although the faunal remains encompass numerous species, most of the bones are splinters that can rarely be identified as a body-sized group. However, the outstanding faunal remains from the Revadim Quarry are represented by the straight-tusk elephant (Palaeloxodon antiquus), which form the largest assemblage in the southern Levant, to date. The numerous bones from this species, which represent at least seven individuals, include mandible and teeth, scapula and pelvis (Fig. 8), a tusk (Fig. 9), vertebrae, ribs and long-bone shafts. The age of the elephants varies from young to old, including prime adults. Two items are possible bone tools; one is an elephant long bone whose one edge has been smoothed (Fig. 10) and the second is a modified detached flake.
Several large elephant bones were deposited in depressions in Layer B2, including the deposition of a pelvis on top of a mandible, on top of a tusk. These accumulations, not anatomically articulated, were found within an area of human activity that contained stone artifacts and bone ‘lumps’. However, at the present stage of research, it is not clear whether the presence of large bones within the pits was due to water action, probably over-bank flows and other post-depositional processes on the site, or direct human activity.
Paleomagnetic analyses on the geological sequence of the Revadim Quarry indicate that the site is of normal polarity (younger than 780,000 years BP). In addition, more samples were obtained in the last season to provide a more accurate dating of the occupation levels. Some samples analyzed the carbonate cortex of flint artifacts, utilizing the Uranium-Isotopic Series (M. Bar-Mathews) and gave new minimum dates of 400,000 years BP. Other samples will eventually be analyzed, using the Luminescence and the Electro Spin Resonance (ESR) methods.
The Revadim Quarry site can be ascribed to the Late Acheulian culture. The general stratigraphy of the site indicates the existence of an early complex, represented mainly by Levels B2 and C5 and a late complex, represented mainly by Levels C2 and C3. The techno-typology of the hand axes found in these levels reinforces our interpretation that the two complexes should be attributed to the Late Acheulian culture. It is postulated that the later complex has some affinities (hand-axe typology and size) to the assemblages of Tabun (E and F), Holon and Kefar Menahem (West). Our interpretations demand further studies, including absolute dating and a comprehensive analysis of the entire assemblage components (flint, fauna, sedimentology, geochemistry). The site bears significant features that can highlight and reconstruct the ecological habitat of the region, as well as the hominid economic behavior during the Lower Paleolithic period.