New fossil remains of Elephas from the southern Levant: Implications for the evolutionary history of the Asian elephant

Adrian M. Lister, Wendy Dirks, Amnon Assaf, Michael Chazan, Paul Goldberg, Yaakov H. Applbaum, Nathalie Greenbaum, Liora Kolska Horwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We describe new fossil remains of elephant (Elephas cf. hysudricus) from archaeological sites in the Levant: Ma'ayan Baruch (Israel) and 'Ain Soda (Jordan). Both sites date to the Middle Pleistocene based on stone artefacts typical of Levantine Late Acheulian assemblages. The elephant remains show 'primitive' dental features reminiscent of E. hysudricus from the Plio-Pleistocene of the Siwaliks (northern India), the species thought to be ancestral to Asian elephant E. maximus. Regionally, the new fossils are chronologically intermediate between an earlier (ca. 1. Ma) record of Elephas sp. from Evron Quarry (Israel), and Holocene remains of E. maximus from archaeological sites in NW Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. It is unclear at present whether this represents continuity of occupation or, more plausibly, independent westward expansions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
StatePublished - 5 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


Special thanks to Ms. Gali Beiner for her invaluable and painstaking restoration work on the elephant teeth from the Ma'ayan Baruch trench, and to Mr. Vladimir Nakhlin for the photography of the Ma'ayan Baruch and Evron Quarry teeth and lithics. We are grateful to Prof. G.O. Rollefson and Dr. Leslie Quintero for the permission to study and publish the 'Ain Soda remains and to Gary Sawyer (American Museum of Natural History) and Malon Anderson (Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota) for the assistance with preparation of the casts. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of the late Prof. Hagai Ron, who undertook the palaeomagnetic analysis of the Ma'ayan Baruch sediment block, and Dr. Naomi Porat (Geological Survey of Israel) for trying to date the Ma'ayan Baruch sediment block using OSL. Thanks also to Yael Ebert for assistance with the palaeomagnetic results. For access to modern Asian elephant molars we thank Roberto Portela-Miguez (Natural History Museum, London), Mark Carnall (Grant Museum, UCL, London), Matthew Lowe and Ann Charlton (University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge), Milly Farrell (Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, London) and Natasja den Ouden (Naturalis, Leiden). Work on the Ma'ayan Baruch specimens was funded by grants from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to MC.

FundersFunder number
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Natural Environment Research CouncilNE/F017839/2


    • 'Ain Soda (Jordan)
    • Asian elephant
    • Elephas hysudricus
    • Elephas maximus
    • Ma'ayan Baruch (Israel)
    • Middle Pleistocene


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