In July 2021, a short trial excavation was carried out at the site of Besor Dyke 1 along Nahal Besor (License No. Z-5/2021; map ref. 171420/537455). The excavation, on behalf of the Israel antiquities Authority and funded by ISF Grant 2236/19, was directed by M. Oron and O. Barzilai, with the assistance of E. Cohen-Sasson (GIS), Y. Avni and N. Wieler (Geology), N. Porat (OSL), E. Aladjem (photogrammetry) and the volunteers of the Desert Nomads group.
The site is located in the upper part of Nahal Besor, south of the modern settlement of Ashalim (Fig. 1). The site, initially discovered in a survey conducted by A.N. Goring-Morris and S. Rosen (1987) in an area slated for a power station (Shivta Power Station), was reported as a potential in situ Middle Paleolithic rock shelter. The site was revisited during a May 2020 geoarchaeological survey conducted by the authors in the area of the Besor Dyke (License No. S-999/2020). The survey identified scatters of fresh Middle Paleolithic flint artifacts along the slope below the rock cliff, possibly a collapsed rock shelter (Fig. 2). It was followed, in 2021, with a trial excavation at the site, in an attempt to locate buried in situ archaeological layers.
Two excavation areas (2.5 sq m in total; Fig. 3) were opened at the uppermost part of the slope, adjacent to the cliff and immediately below an empty small hollow in the cliff. The excavation was carried out in a 0.25 sq m grid, in 5 cm spits. All sediments were dry sifted using a 5 mm mesh. In addition, a geological trench (0.5 × 2.0 m, max. depth 1.35 m) was excavated adjacent to the excavation area, perpendicular to the slope (Fig. 3). The trench was dug with larger tools than those used in the excavation squares, in c. 0.3 m spits. All sediments were dry sifted in a 5 mm mesh sieve. Sediment samples from both the trench and the excavation squares were collected for wet sifting and picking in the lab.
At least two archaeological horizons were identified at the site. The upper one (thickness 0.3 m), noted immediately below the surface in the excavation area, contains abundant fresh flint artifacts, many of which are horizontally embedded (Figs. 4, 5), along with ostrich eggshell fragments; this horizon was partly cemented by carbonate deposition. The lower horizon was identified towards the bottom of the geological trench, at a depth of c. 1.1 m, where numerous lithic artifacts and some ostrich eggshell fragments were noted. The lithic assemblage in both horizons is typical of the Levantine Middle Paleolithic. It includes Levallois points (Fig 6:1–3) and side scrapers (Fig 6:4–6), as well as several exhausted Levallois and hierarchical surface cores (Fig 6:7).
These finds confirmed the presence of at least two in situ layers, suggesting that the rock shelter was a favored location for hunter-gatherer groups who repeatedly visited the place during the Middle Paleolithic period. Future investigations will focus on defining the nature and chronology of the lithic industries at the site and their association with the paleoenvironment and cultural context of the Middle Paleolithic period in the Negev.
Goring-Morris A.N. and Rosen S.A. 1987. Appendix 2.5 E: Late Cenozoic Geology in the Site Area: Attachment A—Prehistoric Archaeology. Nuclear Power Plant—Shivta Site: Preliminary Safety Analysis Reports (Internal report submitted to TAHAL Consulting Engineers LTD).