Microfaunal remains at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel: Preliminary results on small vertebrates, environment and biostratigraphy

L. C. Maul, K. T. Smith, R. Barkai, A. Barash, P. Karkanas, R. Shahack-Gross, A. Gopher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Preliminary results of the investigation of the microfauna at the Acheulo-Yabrudian Middle Pleistocene site of Qesem Cave, Israel, are presented. Thus far the assemblage includes ca. 10,000 bone and tooth fragments, of which 50% could be identified to the generic and some hundreds to the species level. Based on the current material, the fauna includes the following squamate reptiles: Laudakia sp., Chamaeleo sp., Gekkonidae indet., Lacertidae indet., Scincidae indet., Pseudopus sp., Varanus sp., Colubroidea indet. (at least three species) and micromammals: Suncus etruscus, Crocidura cf. leucodon, Crocidurinae indet. (large form), Chiroptera indet., S. ciurus cf. anomalus, Cricetulus cf. migratorius, Microtus guentheri, Nannospalax ehrenbergi, Dipodillus cf. dasyurus, Meriones cf. tristrami, Gerbillidae indet., Mus cf. musculus, Apodemus cf. flavicollis. These results suggest that the fauna includes only taxa that occur recently in the territory of Israel. The ecological preferences of the nearest living relatives of the recorded taxa allow us to infer a paleoenvironment with a mosaic of open and woodland habitats. However, comparing the lower with the upper levels of the microfauna-bearing profile, a slight shift towards more wooded conditions might be detectable. Biostratigraphical inferences from the recorded micromammal taxa cover a rather wide age range, whereas the radiometric (U-series and preliminary TL) dating enable a provisionally estimated date for the microfauna-bearing levels at 360-300 ka. Detailed morphometric comparisons with material from other sites in the region are necessary and may yet provide further insights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-480
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


The excavation of the microvertebrate-rich area during the 2008–2009 field seasons and the study of the finds from this area were supported by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The Qesem Cave research project is supported by the Israel Science Foundation , the Leakey Foundation , the Wenner Gren Foundation and the CARE Archaeological Foundation . We are indebted to S. Rogers (CM), Kenneth Krysko (UF), and Gunther Köhler (SMF) for access to modern specimens. We thank two anonymous reviewers and the guest editor for their valuable comments.

FundersFunder number
CARE Archaeological Foundation
Wenner Gren Foundation
Leakey Foundation
Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
Israel Science Foundation


    • Acheulo-Yabrudian
    • Israel
    • Micromammals
    • Middle Pleistocene
    • Qesem Cave
    • Reptiles


    Dive into the research topics of 'Microfaunal remains at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel: Preliminary results on small vertebrates, environment and biostratigraphy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this