The site of ‘Ubeidiya was explored by several archaeological and paleontological expeditions between 1960 and 1999 (Bar-Yosef and Belmaker 2017, and see references therein). These explorations revealed c. 80 layers bearing lithic and bone remains, of which 15 archaeological horizons were excavated over sufficiently large exposures.
The lithic industries, ascribed to the early Acheulian, include choppers, bifaces, spheroids and chipped debitage (Bar-Yosef and Goren-Inbar 1993). The raw material exploited at the site includes basalt, flint and limestone. Numerous faunal remains were recovered from the site. Of note is the mixture of European taxa, such as deer, bear and suids, alongside African taxa, such as bush hog (saber tooth tiger), large buffalo and several species of antelope.
Human skeletal remains are few; they include cranial and dental fragments with no clear provenance found in 1960 (Tobias 1966), a lower incisor from Layer I-26 (Belmaker et al. 2002) and, most recently, a juvenile vertebra body from Layer II-23 that was identified in the old collections (Barash et al. 2022).
Currently there is no absolute chronology for ‘Ubeidiya. The site’s date, estimated at 1.6–1.2 million years ago, is based primarily on its regional-stratigraphic location and on biochronological estimates of the species found there (Tchernov 1988; Martínez-Navarro, Belmaker and Bar-Yosef 2009).
The current excavation at ‘Ubeidiya had two goals: (a) reviewing the and dating the stratigraphy of Trenches Ia and III through the study of cosmogenic isotopes and paleomagnetism; (B) sampling sediments from the geological layers in these trenches and from a core drill for paleoenvironmental studies. The field work included section cleaning in Trenches Ia and III and a core drilling in an area next to the field laboratory (Fig. 1).
Trenches Ia and III. Cleaning these trenches followed a careful process, which began with the use of a backhoe for removing collapsed sediments that had accumulated within them over the past 30 years. The next stage was a manual cleaning of the southern sections in both trenches and of the northern section in Trench Ia (Fig. 2). The cleaning allowed the identification of three of the previously excavated artifact-bearing layers at the site (Layers I-15, I-26, III-22). The exposed geological and archaeological layers in the southern sections were then sampled for a variety of analyses, such as paleomagnetism, geochemistry, pollen, microfauna and ostracods. The lower part Layer I-26 in the northern section of Trench I (I-26b) was exposed and sampled for cosmogenic isotopes. All samples were piece plotted by Real-time Kinematic Positioning, and the entire sequence was documented by photogrammetry.
The stone artifacts recovered while cleaning the section include choppers, bifaces (Fig. 3), spheroids (Fig. 4) and flake tools. The fauna remains include Hippopotamus behemoth (Fig. 5), Cervidae (Pseudodama nestii and Praemegaceros verticornis) and Equids (Equus tabeti); all the identified species are the same as those found in earlier excavations at the site.
Core Drilling. The core (length 17 m, diam. 8 cm) was obtained from sediments correlated to the Limnic Inferior cycle exposed at an outcrop adjacent to the field laboratory (Fig. 1).
The study of paleomagnetism and cosmogenic isotopes is expected to resolve the question of the site’s age. The palaeoecological studies are expected to yield new information on the surrounding environments of ‘Ubeidiya. It is hoped that the combined results of these studies will aid in better understanding the expansion of the early Acheulian culture from Africa into Eurasia.